Collins: Supreme Court ruling 'bad for county'

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said Tuesday's ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court against the county's previous occupational tax was "bad for the county."

"I think we are in a worse situation than we have been," Collins told FOX6 News.

The Alabama Supreme Court Tuesday agreed with a lower court's decision which ruled the county's occupational tax was illegal. The state supreme court said DeKalb County Judge David Rains was correct when he ruled the legislature struck down the tax and never legally replaced it.

"We do know, the Supreme Court has basically said everyone is going to get a stimulus check next year," said Jim McFerrin, one of the two attorneys who challenged the tax. "So expect a check."

Earlier this year, the county put 1,000 employees on administrative leave without pay and closed its satellite courthouses in an effort to cut expenses lost from the occupational tax revenue.  The cuts led to long lines at the main courthouses. Tuesday, commissioners said they wanted those workers back on the job.

"These people ought to come back to work today, said Commissioner Shelia Smoot.  "Start bringing them back ten at a time."

"I want to see people back to work as soon as possible," said Commissioner Bobby Humphreys.

Commissioner William Bell said he wanted county attorneys to look into the possibility of getting a bridge loan which could help get workers back on the job sooner.

"We could get at least five to 10 million dollars so we can bring back individuals who can help the county to generate revenue and protect the county," said Commissioner William Bell.

But, Collins said the Alabama Supreme Court ruling would make it more difficult to generate tax dollars to bring employees back.

Sam Hill, the other attorney who filed the lawsuit over the tax, disagreed. Hill said the new job tax law passed by the legislature earlier this month will allow the county to collect the old job tax until January.

"The ruling does not affect the occupational tax that was passed on August 14th," said Hill. "It can go forward."