Lawmakers to meet Monday on new occupational tax

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - As Jefferson County lawmakers prepare to meet Monday to tackle a new occupational tax, the war of words continued Friday over who was to blame for the county's financial crisis.

"We have a crisis everyone understands that," said Sen. Steve French. "We need to address the crisis."

Earlier this week, French requested a delay of the meeting in order to give lawmakers more time to get and analyze financial documents from the county, but Friday French said he and other lawmakers will attend the meeting.

"It's how we address the crisis," French said. "Is it in a slipshod manner or do it and try to get it right the first time?"

The senator is pushing a bill which would set caps for those who pay occupational taxes. French would also like to see those taxes end at on one point, but the Republican lawmaker said he has doubts they will be able to reach an agreement on one bill. Republican lawmakers are also demanding any new tax be tied to mandating the county commission hire a county manager before getting new tax dollars.

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins on Friday continued to blame county lawmakers for the financial crisis. She said lawmakers failed to legally replacing it the tax after it died in 1999.

"We are all the victims by the lack of action of our legislators," Collins said. "For them to continue to with this knowing human suffering will ensue. There is no way in the world they can blame anybody but themselves when the day is done."

"We didn't create the mess," French said. "The county has known for years this day was coming. It's our job to remedy the mess."

Up to 67% of county workers are expected to be put on administrative leave without pay by August 1st because of the lost revenue.