Council may raise tax on tobacco

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Selma tobacco users could be paying more to puff in just a few weeks.

A majority vote of the Selma City Council Monday night put an ordinance on first reading that would create a 15 percent tax, subject to change, on all tobacco products except cigarettes. The issue will be addressed again at the council’s Aug. 25 meeting.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. explained the council’s actions during discussion of the tax.

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According to Perkins, Amendment One, a tax reform package proposed by Gov. Bob Riley, contains a prohibition that would disallow municipalities from ever raising taxes on tobacco products. If Selma wants to increase tobacco taxes, it must do so by Sept. 1.

Council President George Evans said the only reason the city was examining the tax was Amendment One, and added that if the amendment failed, the council would have the option of rescinding or lowering the tax.

When asked if he would bring the issue up due to the amendment’s failure, Evans said he would make it a business item on the council’s agenda.

Selma Tax and License Director Martha Jackson brought the issue before the council Monday. Jackson said she had surveyed a number of cities and found several ways to tax tobacco products, &uot;Whether it’s a cigar, a cigarillo or snuff.&uot;

Jackson suggested using a percentage tax instead of a flat tax placed on all tobacco products. Selma currently ranks second-highest in the state with its 16-cent cigarette tax. Tuskegee is the city with the highest cigarette tax in Alabama &045;&045; 18-cents.

City Attorney Jimmy Nunn noted that the new tax would probably net the city an additional $30,000 per year.

Before the vote, Jackson said she recommended the tax be tentatively set at 12 percent since it wasn’t known what other cities were doing. &uot;We can always lower it,&uot; Jackson said.

Councilman James Durry said the tax should be 10 percent, but Councilwoman Rita Sims Franklin demurred.

The vote then passed to put the tax on first reading.