MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Senior citizen groups urged the Alabama Legislature Tuesday to pass a bill to remove the state sales tax from groceries. The speaker of the Alabama Silver-Haired Legislature, 85-year-old Bill Adams of Madison County, said removing the state's 4 percent tax on groceries would help those on fixed incomes.
He said they often must choose between buying groceries and medicine. "Sometimes a sweet man or woman will have to cut their medicine in half to be able to go buy groceries," Adams told a news conference.
The proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, and Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, would also raise the threshold at which a family of four starts paying the state income tax from $12,600 to $20,000. To pay for the tax cuts, the legislation would end the state's income tax deduction for federal taxes paid.
Alabama is one of two states that don't waive all or part of the state sales tax for groceries or give a tax rebate to the poor. It is one of three states that give a 100 percent deduction for federal income taxes paid. The measure passed the House on April 15 but is stymied in the Senate with three days left in the 2008 regular session.
Senate Republicans want to attach it to a bill to shift home property tax reappraisals from an annual basis to once every four years. If the bill gets final passage in the House and Senate, it would be put to voters in a statewide referendum during the Nov. 4 presidential election. Adams and the executive director of the state AARP chapter, Joan Carter, joined Knight and Sanders at the news conference to encourage passage of the bill.
Sanders said he's not sure when he will attempt to bring it up for a vote in the Senate. Knight and Sanders oppose linking the bill to efforts to change the frequency of property tax reappraisals. "That is just an effort to try to kill this bill," Knight said. There have been attempts in the Legislature for years to remove the state sales tax from groceries, but few have gotten as far as this year's effort. "We have an opportunity to do something now that has never happened before," Knight said.
Republicans have said they favor taking the sales tax off groceries, but oppose removing the income tax deduction. Democrats have cited estimates that only the wealthiest 20 percent of Alabama's residents would spend a higher percentage of their income on state and local taxes as a result of the legislation.
But Republicans say the measure would have an adverse effect on more taxpayers. Republican Sen. Larry Dixon said he believes the measure would hurt people in his mostly middle class Montgomery district.
"It's a shift of the burden of taxation to the people who are already paying the most in taxes. The people I represent can't afford it," Dixon said.
Senior citizens urge for bill to remove grocery sales tax
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