Democrats in the Alabama House tried last year to pass a $1 cigarette tax increase but couldn’t get it past the Republican supermajority.
This year, they want to give Alabamians the ability to vote on it.
Democrats said Wednesday that they will push a constitutional amendment that would create a tax increase. Revenue from the tax, which they estimate to be about $227 million a year, would for six years go toward paying back the $437 million the state owes to the Alabama Trust Fund. After that, it would fund state Medicaid.
The idea will still have to get past Republicans in the House and Senate, many of whom have stated they are against any sort of tax increase.
Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, said that Republicans need to look beyond their tax pledges at what is best for the state. He offered them a way to keep any “no new taxes” promises.
“And with the constitutional amendment, they can say, ‘I didn’t put the tax on it, the people did,’ ” Black said.
Other priorities outlined by House Democrats Wednesday included 10 percent cost-of-living raises for teachers and state employees, which Republicans have said is not an option because of budget constraints, and putting school resource officers in every school, which would cost about $50 million a year. Democrats are suggesting a state lottery to pay for that.
For more on this, see Thursday’s edition.