Alabama Arise calls for end of the state grocery tax

Published 10:45 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The issue of removing grocery taxes in Alabama has been debated in the legislature for many years, dating back to the 1990s. This year, the group Alabama Arise Action is saying the time has come to take action.

“Get rid of this grocery tax now. That is the message, loud and clear,” Alabama Arise Action executive director Robyn Hayden told about 100 supporters at a rally on the steps of the State House in Montgomery on April 11.

According to the Washington, D.C. based Center on Budget and Public Priorities, Alabama is one of three states that fully applies its sales tax on groceries.

A bill that would do away with the tax on food is making its way through the Alabama Legislature. State Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, filed a bill earlier this month that would gradually repeal the 4 percent sales tax on basic foods including bread, milk, eggs, cheese, infant formula, fresh fruit, and vegetables. 

Orr stated he is studying what adding meat to the tax-exempt food would mean for the Education Trust Fund. During previous legislative sessions, debate on grocery tax removal bills have stalled because the food tax and state income tax support the education trust fund. 

On its website, Alabama Arise Action called the state tax on groceries a “cruel tax on survival”. 

“It increases hunger rates, drives struggling families deeper into poverty and adds pressure to household budgets with every trip to the grocery store,” representatives wrote on group’s website Alarise.org. “The average Alabama family spends approximately $600 a year on state grocery tax. By reducing or eliminating the state grocery tax, we are taking an important first step toward making it easier for working families to make ends meet.” 

The Alabama Associated Press news service reported the Alabama Republican Party conducted a poll showing a vast majority of registered voters support removing Alabama’s tax on food.

“One of the core beliefs of the Republican Party is that government exists for the benefit of the people, not the other way around. We want to help those families and individuals struggling with food prices right now. It’s time to end the grocery tax,” Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl said in a statement.

State Senator Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, told the State House rally that she has a proposal that would allow voters to decide whether they wanted to remove the sales tax on food or remove another tax break. 

Colman said, “Let them choose whether they prefer a tax loophole that mostly benefits the richest few or if they want a grocery tax cut that benefits everyone.”

State Rep.Penni McClammy, D-Montgomery, and State Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, said they are working on other bills that would reduce the state grocery tax, but they did not share details.

Alabama Arise Action board president Kathy Vincent told the crowd, “We’re here today to ask our lawmakers to end the state grocery tax quickly and responsibly. This is the year to finally untax groceries once and for all.”