The Saraland city council passed an extension of its penny sales tax on Monday. The measure passed by a 4-1 vote. Many of the citizens who showed up to the meeting to speak were in favor of the measure. A similar vote is scheduled for the city of Mobile, where passage of a penny sales tax is not expected to go through.
The penny sales tax will allow the city to avoid crippling cuts. Without the revenue from the penny sales tax, positions such as policemen, firemen, teachers, and other city workers would have been vulnerable to cuts. The city would have faced a $2.2 million shortfall without the tax.
Mayor Howard Rubenstein told WKRG News 5 that failing to pass the tax would have been a huge step backwards for Saraland. Most of the citizens who spoke at the meeting agreed, citing the progress Saraland has made in the last few years, and not wanting to impede it. Saraland is primed for growth over the next few years. Cuts to city services could deter businesses from locating there in the future.
This same battle is raging across the country, and even in other cities in Mobile County. Mobile will vote at today’s meeting on a similar tax to fund their deficit shortfall. Three council members have come out against the tax, so the measure is likely to fail. The city of Mobile is facing a deficit possibly over $20 million.
The state of Alabama is also facing budget problems. In fact, the polls are open today on an amendment to solve the budget problem by borrowing from a state trust fund. Governor Bentley has already cut the budget severely, and has refused to raise taxes to fill in the gaps. At this point, even he is weary of cutting the budget further. The alternative he has offered is on the ballot today. The trust fund in question is funded by royalties from companies that pump gas off the coast of the state.
These budget problems are at the heart of the political differences that divide the country. Republicans and conservatives prefer to cut government programs in order to balance our budgets. Democrats and liberals prefer to raise taxes in some cases in order to stay afloat. The liberal method was applied in Saraland, but it looks like Mobile could be going the conservative route. In the coming years, we could see which method proves more viable.
**Update** The sales tax increase was voted down at today’s city council meeting in Mobile.