Alabama senators back bill to cut state sales tax on food

A person grocery shops in the produce section

Michael Burrows, Pexels

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Every member of the Alabama Senate on Thursday backed legislation to cut the state sales tax on groceries by half, as food bill relief emerges as a bipartisan issue for lawmakers in the face of rising prices.

The bill introduced by Republican Sen. Andrew Jones of Centre would gradually reduce the sales tax on food from 4% to 2% — taking off .5% each year — provided there is more than enough state revenue to offset the loss to the education budget, which relies on sales and income taxes. All 35 state senators have signed on as a sponsor, or cosponsor.

The broad support boosts the legislation’s chances of winning approval after similar bills have stalled in Montgomery for decades.

“This is going to help people afford groceries, put food on the table,” Jones said.

The legislation, which next heads to a Senate committee for debate, is less sweeping than other proposals that would eliminate the groceries sales tax. Jones said he is seeking a reduction in a way that won’t hurt funding for public schools.

Alabama Arise, an organization that lobbies for policies that would benefit low-income families, said the average Alabama family spends $600 a year on the state grocery tax.

Various lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have proposed removing the grocery tax since the early 1990s, but the proposals failed partly because of their impact on the education budget. But the idea has gained traction among lawmakers in both parties as the state sees both an unusual budget surplus and families experience rising food costs.

Removing the 4% tax on groceries would cost $608 million, according to the Legislative Services Agency. Jones’ bill would eliminate half that amount when fully implemented.

Competing proposals vary on if the tax would be removed entirely, what foods would be included and if the lost revenue would be replaced.

Sen. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, said she supports Jones’ bill but prefers a version that offers more immediate relief to families and also replaces funding for public schools.

Coleman has sponsored legislation that would let voters decide whether to replace the money by ending a tax deduction that allows Alabamians to deduct federal income tax payments from their income before calculating their state income taxes. She said the tax break disproportionately lowers taxes for the wealthiest people.

“But again any type of relief that folks from the state of Alabama can get, I’m going to support,” Coleman said.


Supreme Court to decide whether Alabama can postpone drawing new congressional districts

The outcome could determine what map the state uses in the 2024 elections and whether the high court will revisit arguments over the role of race in redistricting.

Q&A: Author of ‘Rocket Men’ details how Black quarterbacks helped move the NFL forward

John Eisenberg talks with the Gulf States Newsroom about the Black quarterbacks who helped change the NFL, as well as the players who never got the chance.

Q&A: Why New Orleans’ unhoused people face increased danger from relentless heat

Delaney Nolan discusses her report for The Guardian that revealed a spike in heat-related illness calls among New Orleans’ unhoused people this summer.

How a rural Alabama school system outdid the country with gains in math

Piedmont City schools notched significant improvement in math, landing in the top spot among school districts across the country in a comparison of scores from before and during the pandemic. Nationwide, students on average fell half a year behind in math, researchers say.

Video shows high school band director shocked with stun gun, arrested after refusing to stop music

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, who is representing band director Johnny Mims as his attorney, said Tuesday that the incident is an “alarming abuse of power” that instead “should have been should have been deescalated.”

Protecting Margaritaville: Jimmy Buffett, Bama and the Fight to Save the Manatee

The singer, who died Sept. 1, grew up in Mobile and had a huge following in Alabama, even if many of his devotees in the state were less than thrilled by his liberal politics.

More 2023 Alabama Legislative Session Coverage