Eliminating Alabama's state sales tax on groceries is a" logical first step in our tax reduction efforts," according to new State Rep. Ben Harrison (R-Cartwright).
Harrison told 1819 News in an interview this week that he wants to see the tax repealed.
"My focus will be on initially the repeal of the food tax," Harrison said. "This inflation has hit everybody, and that came as a result of government's response to COVID. No economist worth his salt would claim you can drop $6 trillion into a $16 trillion economy and not expect massive inflation. When I talked to people while campaigning at the door, I commented that you'll pay more in one year of this inflation than you ever got in those stimulus checks. Inflation is a tax, and it's the most insidious of taxes. It impacts the lower-income households the hardest, and that's why I believe eliminating the state tax on groceries to me is a logical first step in our tax reduction efforts. It will help in aiding those people where food is a larger portion of their income."
Alabama is one of just a few states that taxes groceries at the full state sales tax rate. Alabama has the fifth-highest state and local average sales tax rate, according to the Tax Foundation.
Harrison also told 1819 News that "in the long run, I believe that we need to look at our tax structure so that we make changes that will reduce the drag on the economy and therefore increase revenues due to higher economic activity."
"That's kind of the holy grail," Harrison added.
He also echoed some of his fellow freshman lawmaker colleagues who've told 1819 News in recent interviews that improving processes around adoption in Alabama would be a priority in the upcoming legislative session.
"Since the Dobbs decision, I think that we need to work to support efforts and find solutions that will give better options to expectant mothers," Harrison said. "We certainly need to support efforts to make adoptions safe, quick, and relatively free compared to the current system. You know how some of those things can drag out, and costs are exorbitant. We need to reduce that."
Harrison, who represents House District 2, served as a Limestone County Commissioner from 2012 to 2020.
"I was a commissioner back in 2020 when this COVID stuff started," Harrison said. "I was appalled, horrified at what was going down. I was concerned about our liberties and freedoms being trampled upon without any response [or] without any pushback. That was a major factor in me getting involved. Where I come from in manufacturing, if you make a mistake, you go back and try to find the assignable causes and put controls in place where that doesn't happen again. It can't happen again. That's the goal. That's the ideal. We don't typically do that within government. It is, I think, imperative that we do so."
Harrison, a lifelong resident of Limestone County, attended Owens Junior High and West Limestone High School. After graduating in 1978, he attended Calhoun Community College and Auburn University – obtaining a B.S. in chemical engineering, according to his campaign site.
"Really early on though, back in college, my roommate subscribed to the Foundation for Economic Education," Harrison told 1819 News. "That kind of reaffirmed my conservative beliefs when it comes to government. I'm kind of one who believes that liberties and freedoms are something to be protected when it comes to government."
According to his campaign site, during his professional career, Harrison worked as the technical services manager overseeing industrial engineering, process control, and environmental engineering for the Owens Corning Huntsville plant, which was later purchased by Kohler Company. In 2001, he left the corporate world and started a small business with his family. He is married to Beth McGuire Harrison, and they have four children.
"I come from the manufacturing experience, and I consider that a plus," Harrison said. "It gives me a perspective in terms of costs. That's one thing that I think is a struggle within government is to control costs. They typically don't look at costs. They look only on the revenue side of the equation, not the cost side of the equation."
Harrison won the House District 2 seat by winning a close four-way race in the Republican primary in May and winning the run-off in June.
"I wanted a conservative person as my representative," Harrison said. "I thought the only way to do that, given the field and the likely outcome if I didn't get involved, would be that that wouldn't happen. I decided to get involved."
House District 2 encompasses parts of Lauderdale and Limestone Counties.
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