MONTGOMERY, Alabama — One of Alabama's largest advocacy groups for the poor urged lawmakers on Tuesday to approve Gov. Robert Bentley's tax proposal to avoid further weakening the state's already tattered safety net.
Alabama Arise rallied at the Alabama State House on Tuesday in support of Bentley's $541 million tax plan to help fix the state's general fund budget crisis.
Bentley's proposal for eight separate tax increases could raise hundreds of millions by raising taxes on cigarettes and automobile sales and by closing corporate income-tax loopholes.
An early draft budget shows agency cuts between 11 percent and 16 percent if new taxes aren't passed.
Alabama Arise Executive Director Kimble Forrister said raising the cigarette tax as the governor has proposed could be a big boon to the budget. The governor has called for raising the tax per pack from 42.5 cents to $1.25. A separate proposal in the Alabama House would raise it by 32.5 cents.
"For a long time, our organizational position was the cigarette tax was a regressive tax, but after further study we've concluded that the health benefits far outweigh the tax cost," he said in an interview on Tuesday.
While the Republican governor has found an ally with the advocacy group for low-income families, he still faces obstacles within his own party. GOP legislators have said they plan to address cuts before addressing any new taxes.
At a Tuesday luncheon in Montgomery, Bentley continued his push for broad public support.
One of his tax bills would close multistate companies' ability to shift corporate income-tax reporting to more tax-favorable states.
He said voters needs to talk with their elected officials and encourage them to support a plan that avoids deep cuts.
The Bentley administration says the state ranks 50th in combined state and local taxes.
"These are bold actions that we're trying to take, and we're not here to not be bold. The state is doing too well. We have come so far in the last four years," he said.