With only hours left in the 2011 legislative session, a bill to give Jefferson County control of its own taxes appears dead. This morning Sen. Scott Beason told reporters that he did not intend to lift his contest of the bill, which has frozen it in place since last week.
The bill would give the county commission authority to raise up to $50 million in taxes to replace a portion of the $73 million of revenue it lost when courts ruled its occupational tax to be illegal. Last year a circuit court found that the Legislature had amended the occupational tax bill so much that it no longer adequately resembled the bill that had been advertised.
In the Alabama Legislature four representatives or one senator can contest a local bill, effectively killing it. A four-fifths majority in either house can override a contest, but that seems unlikely at this late hour. On its last day, the Legislature is in the middle of a marathon session to pass numerous local and statewide bills before midnight.
Even if Beason lifted his contest, the county would need to get the bill back through the Alabama House. There, Rep. John Rogers has promised to muster opposition to kill the bill.
Speaking to reporters this morning, Rogers made fun of Republicans for supporting a bill to raise taxes, while he was fighting to kill it. “They’re the liberals and I’m the fiscal conservative,” Rogers said. “Must be something in the water.”
Jefferson County commissioners have said that they could begin layoffs as early as Monday. The county will need to cut more than 900 employees to cure the $9 million monthly budget deficit. The county’s finance committee will meet Friday morning to make further decisions on layoffs.
Commission President David Carrington said he and his staff would hold out hope and work into the night to get the home rule bill through the Legislature.