Jefferson County looking at a sales tax increase after ruling out a Supreme Court rehearing

BIRMINGHAM,AL (WBRC) - New taxes for Jefferson County? That's one possibility on the table tonight as FOX6 News has confirmed the county won't be going back to the supreme court after the current occupational tax was shot down in an unanimous decision last week.  Now the question becomes how does the county fill that $70 million hole in its budget before it's money runs out? You may not like some of the options.  Jefferson County could've asked the supreme court to rehear its case on why the current occupational tax should stay, but faced with a 6-0 decision, "The best thing we can do right now is focus on the legislature and see if we can pick up some help there," said County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens.  The commission will need the legislature's help if it wants to find new ways to replace the $70 million a year it's losing from the occupational tax. 3 options on the table include a half-cent sales tax increase, another occupational tax but this time at a lower rate, or releasing some of the restrictions on where the current 1-cent sales tax money can go.  "Any and all are on the table, and a likely combination of all of those is probably what will be the solution to this, just based on what I see, and will probably be the most palatable for our consumers," Stephens said.  But county lawmakers aren't willing to do anything until they get a look at the county's books.  "Once they do show 'here's where the money's going, here's where it's being spent,' I think we'll have a better idea of what proposals can be on the table," said Rep. Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood). "I think that, at the end of the day is the most important issue."  DeMarco is co-chair of the Jefferson County delegation and says any new tax or tax increase would be almost impossible to sell.  "You're looking at the long-term consequences of how this is going to affect Jefferson County when it's trying to be competitive with other counties. You already have the concerns with the amount everybody pays in sewer rates."  The county commission is preparing a complete look at it's finances for lawmakers to put in their hands soon. "I think we stand at least a 50-50 chance of getting this done," Stephens said.  Stephens says he hopes the commission and county delegation can sit down and come up with a solution that will pass the legislature before it ends later this spring.  He says if nothing is done, the county will run out of money in late July.

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