City of Montgomery passes occupational tax to jump ahead of possible prohibition

Published 2:40 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The city of Montgomery has approved a 1% occupational tax, getting ahead of state lawmakers who were swiftly moving to strip cities of their ability to levy such taxes.

News outlets report that the Montgomery City Council approved the occupational tax on a 5-3 vote Tuesday. It wouldn’t go into effect until 2021. The vote came hours after a Senate committee advanced a bill that would prevent cities from instituting new occupational taxes without a vote of the Alabama Legislature.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed told lawmakers earlier in the day that the city would have no choice but to push ahead.

“This is not just about Montgomery. It’s not just about one tax. It’s about local control,” Reed told reporters.

The mayors of the state’s 10 largest cities sent legislators an open letter against the occupational tax legislation, saying it denies municipal officials the ability to do their jobs. Occupational taxes are taxes paid by people who work inside a city limits.

The author of the state bill, Republican Rep. Chris Sells of Greenville, said cities would still have the option of increasing occupational taxes. But Sells said the measures should involve local legislation at the Alabama Statehouse to ensure those living outside the city have input in the decision.

Councilman Glen Pruitt said the council felt like it didn’t have a choice, WAKA reported.

“Well, we were put in a bad position to begin with with state legislators having no thought of passing an occupational tax, and when they dropped the bill, we didn’t have a choice,” Pruitt said.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported that several residents spoke against the tax before the vote.

James Garner, who has lived in Montgomery for 26 years, said he was a Libertarian opposed to all taxes, but regarding this tax, he was concerned for low-income workers.

“I see no provision in the law for very low wage earners, for the very poor,” Gardner said