Mayors from the state’s 10 largest cities have come out in opposition to a bill awaiting Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature that would prevent municipalities from enacting occupational taxes.
This comes as Montgomery has levied a 1 percent tax on all those employed within the city. Montgomery city spokesman Michael Briddell said Mayor Steven Reed and his staff have been in contact with Ivey’s office in hopes that the city’s tax can still take effect, even if she signs House Bill 147 and it becomes law.
“If that falls through, the mayor will look at other options,” Briddell said.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who chairs the so-called “Group of 10” did not endorse a similar tax in the Port City, but said he wanted to support Reed.
“I think it’s viewed differently in different places in the state, but those communities where there are a lot of commuters who come into the city to work, they have a free ride,” he said. “Let’s leave it at that.”
The bill, introduced by state Rep. Chris Sells, R-Greenville, prohibits a municipality that doesn’t already have an occupational tax from levying one, unless it’s approved by the local legislative delegation.
“The Legislature, by local law, may authorize a municipality to impose an occupational or license tax on any natural person derived from the conduct of a vocation, 21 occupation, calling or profession within the municipality,” the bill states. “This act shall not affect or repeal an existing municipal occupational tax in effect prior to February 1, 2020.”
The bill raises home rule issues for the mayors. In an open letter to legislators penned by Stimpson, the 10 mayors call it an “assault on local governance.”
“As local leaders, we pursue policies and strategies to deliver crucial services, grow our economies and protect residents and visitors alike,” the letter reads. “We must have the flexibility to exercise our best judgement and uphold our oaths of office. Alabama faces multiple challenges, which the legislature alone is empowered to address. There are important issues in which mayors and city councils have neither influence nor control.”
“However, identifying and solving problems on the local level is best suited for city leaders who have been given that responsibility by the voters,” the letter continued. “Placing legislative restrictions on our cities as we search for answers to complex issues is an unnecessary overreach.”
The mayors, through the letter, also questioned the speed at which the legislation was being pushed through.
“We recognize the need to have strong relationships between the legislature and city governments, but we are troubled by the hasty manner in which HB147 is being reviewed,” the letter states. “This legislation should be tabled to allow for sufficient engagement in a productive dialogue.”
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