Republicans defend the grocery tax

alsealThe bill to repeal the grocery sales tax was defeated a second time in the Alabama House yesterday. Bill sponsors and Democratic leaders in the House say they’ll keep trying.

The opposition was almost uniformly Republican. Their complaint was that the bill would unfairly penalize rich taxpayers by removing the state income tax deduction for federal income tax payments — a loophole that has been closed in almost every other state in the nation. The bill’s author, John Knight, offered to phase out the deduction over three years rather than eliminating it at once, but that wasn’t enough to bring the bill up for debate.

Due to a bizarre rule in the Alabama Legislature, two thirds of House or Senate members must approve a “budget isolation resolution” (BIR) before any measure can be brought up for debate. It’s because of a 1984 constitutional amendment that tried to force lawmakers to come up with a budget early in the legislative session, before handling other business. The amendment requires a two-thirds supermajority to approve consideration of any measure except the budget. In practice, this has given lawmakers an extra stalling tactic, as it takes the support of two-thirds of members just to open floor debate on any bill. The BIR has become a routine piece of business. And the budget still gets put off until the last days of the session, when it gets finished at all without a special session.

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