State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) is looking to relieve some of the tax burden on Etowah County residents by repealing occupational taxes. However, Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford said doing so could bankrupt his city and many others.
Occupational taxes are local taxes businesses and service providers pay to operate within a municipality. For Gadsden, they account for nearly 30% of the annual budget — roughly $15 million.
"It would cripple our city," Mayor Ford told WBRC. "We'd either have to go into bankruptcy, or we'd either have to just have massive layoffs of government services and employees."
Last year, Jones drafted a bill to phase out the taxes over 20 years. The Gadsden City Council passed a resolution condemning the bill, which failed in the House.
Jones is now considering proposing a similar bill this legislative session after getting input from the mayors that would be impacted.
"Occupational taxes are taxes on people for the privilege of being employed," Jones said to WBRC. "I have a disagreement fundamentally with occupational taxes for that reason because they're a disincentive for people to work in a day and age where we want to be encouraging people to be employed."
Aside from the loss of revenue, the council said in 2021 that repealing the tax could increase residents' property taxes and negatively impact the city's ability to borrow money for projects, according to The Gadsden Times.
"You're decreasing by a limited amount, but you're also having budget growth due to inflation year after year, so it's not accurate that you'd be losing that much of a city budget in one moment," Jones added.
This isn't the first time Jones and Ford have found themselves on opposite sides in politics. The two ran against each other for State Senate in 2018, the office Jones currently holds after winning over 60% of the vote. Ford was elected mayor of Gadsden last September.
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