By Craig Ford
Two bills being introduced by our new state senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre) have stirred up a lot of controversy over the past couple of weeks, and for good reason!
The first bill Sen. Jones introduced would raise our local gas taxes, as well as other taxes. This would be in addition to the statewide gas tax increase he voted for earlier this year. His second bill would increase the lodging tax, which would hurt our local tourism by making it cheaper to stay the night at hotels in neighboring counties.
So far, Andrew has racked up a 100 percent pro-tax increase voting record in the state legislature, and I’m beginning to wonder if there are any tax increases he won’t vote for!
But the question that keeps coming to my mind is this: If these tax increases are supposed to be a good thing for Etowah County, then why hasn’t he introduced similar tax increases for Cherokee and DeKalb counties?
Andrew is smart enough to know that raising the gas tax and lodging tax in Etowah County would give a competitive advantage to businesses in neighboring counties such as Cherokee County, where Andrew is from and where his father sits on the county commission.
Why else would he bring these bills – which, as far as I know, no one on the Etowah County Commission asked him to do – and not say a word to any of the local mayors or city council members until he had already introduced the bills? Even the members of the county commission were not included in the drafting process when Andrew wrote these bills.
And despite what he is saying, Andrew does not have the unanimous support of the local legislative delegation, which the legislature’s rules say you must have to pass any local bill. That means that unless all the members of our delegation decide to support these tax increases, these bills are dead on arrival.
So not only is Andrew trying to raise our local taxes and make us less competitive, he’s also wasting our tax dollars advertising bills that are not going to pass.
And the problems with these bills don’t end there. There are also problems with the way Andrew would spend the tax dollars generated by these tax increases.
For example, the lodging tax bill would give a portion of the money to the tourism board, where it “may” be used for the Etowah County Mega Sports Complex. But “may” doesn’t mean that it will; only that it could. That money could also be used for other things, such as hiring more consultants to promote the industrial mega site that still does not have roadway access, plumbing infrastructure or electricity.
The bottom line is that these bills stink! The people of Etowah County did not send Andrew Jones to Montgomery to raise our taxes over and over again. They didn’t send him there to run over our local mayors and city councils or to conduct our public business in the shadows and behind closed doors.
And I keep coming back to the same question – if these bills are so good for Etowah County, then why isn’t Andrew introducing them for Cherokee and DeKalb Counties?
Craig Ford is the owner of Hodges-Ford Insurance and The Messenger newspaper. He represented Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.