New occupational tax one step closer

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Alabama legislature is one step closer to solving Jefferson County's financial crisis, a welcome relief to Jefferson County employees on administrative leave without pay.

Tuesday, the Jefferson County house delegation, on a split voice vote, okayed a new job tax.

"I'm holding my nose," said Rep. Oliver Robinson. "My constituents, like others, don't want to pay any additional tax."

Rep. Paul DeMarco, who is sponsoring the accountability bill, did not vote for the occupational tax.

"My constituents have concerns what's going on with the county commission," said DeMarco. "That's the most important thing we can do is represent our constituents."

The accountability bill also passed on a voice vote, but there were no objections. Still, Democratic lawmakers questioned the both votes.

"I don't like the comptroller deal," said Rep. Demetrius Newton. "Even though support it, I don't like reducing the occupational tax."

Sen. Rodger Smitherman watched the debate and vote. He said he continues to oppose phasing out the job tax if voters reject in 2012.

"How in the world do you take 80-million dollars from a government and expect them to operate," said Smitherman.

Smitherman said the legislature may not be able to wrap up the special session by Friday as most lawmakers hope, but Rep. John Rogers disagreed.

"Hog wash," Rogers said. "We can do it in five days. If he kills the session, If he breaks the deal it will kill the session. I don't thing he will do that."

Jefferson County workers kept a close eye Tuesday on local lawmakers, especially the 1,000 county employees placed on administrative leave without pay.

"Used to go to work, not sitting at home," said Barry Polk, who was in Montgomery Tuesday during the house delegation vote. "Sooner or later it will take a financial toll. Unemployment doesn't pay that much."

"I'm pleased with what I'm hearing at least they are all talking," say Kevin Hughins, an information and technology worker. "It's not everything we need or want."

County workers said they hope legislators will be able to compromise and solve their difference soon.

"They need to get on the same page and get something passed this session," said Polk.