Birmingham lawmaker wants to force Jefferson County into bankruptcy

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM (WBRC) - One Birmingham representative is looking to pass new bill forcing Jefferson County into bankruptcy Wednesday, after the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed a judge's ruling striking down the county's occupational tax.  

Rep. John Rogers said lawmakers will not create a new tax to help make up for the $70 million the county is set to lose.

"I think it's stupidity," Rogers said. "Stupidity not to realize you got to do what you got to do."

County commissioners hope to meet with the Jefferson County legislative delegation next week. Meanwhile, county workers are hoping for a solution other than bankruptcy.

"I would like them to pass a tax and not put a vote on it this time," Kevin Hughins, who works for the county's IT department said. Hughins is also the president of the Jefferson County Employees Association and would prefer a tax over declaring bankruptcy.

Hughins said he was shocked after hearing the ruling, is very concerned and has taken several calls and people are very hurt and upset.

"It's kind of like a blow to the midsection," Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight said. He said the commission will not make any impulse decisions or take any immediate action.

"We are not going to start laying people off immediately," Knight said. "We are not going to, at least at this point, to shut down all services."

County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens was also shocked by the ruling.

"I am terribly disappointed in the action of the supreme court," Stephens said. "It creates chaos in Jefferson County."

He said the county will have to develop a 100 day play since the county will run out of money by the end of July.

"We will not be able to right size government to the tune of $30 to 40 million. That is impossible. So services will be affected. Jobs will be affected," Stephens said.

This all comes after the Alabama Supreme Court upheld Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Charles Price's ruling striking down the county's occupational tax. The court ruled the county had not properly advertised the tax long enough to be legally passed. The loss of the tax means the loss of $70 million for the county budget.

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