Letters & Testimony

Alabama Arise testimony in support of untaxing groceries

Alabama Arise’s Robyn Hyden testified Wednesday before the House Ways and Means Education Committee in support of a bill to reduce the state sales tax on groceries. HB 479, sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, would reduce the state grocery tax from 4% to 2% over time. It also would make this cut contingent on growth in the Education Trust Fund (ETF). Here’s the full text of Hyden’s prepared remarks:

Good morning! I’m Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise. We’re a nonprofit coalition of 150 congregations, organizations and individuals promoting public policies to improve the lives of Alabamians who are struggling because of poverty. I want to say thank you to the 100 House co-sponsors and the 35 Senate co-sponsors who support HB 479 and its Senate companion bill.

For decades, Alabama Arise has hosted community conversations and listening sessions around to state to understand what we can do to build fairer opportunities for people to succeed and thrive. Untaxing groceries has always been at the top of the list for regular, everyday, working-class Alabamians, who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on sales taxes, like the grocery tax. Last month, we brought more than 125 grassroots advocates to the State House to ask you all to consider several ways to remove the grocery tax. And we are very pleased to see this bill receive your attention today.

Alabama Arise supporters gather outside the State House in Montgomery during Arise’s Legislative Day on April 11, 2023. More than 100 Alabamians came to urge their lawmakers to end the state sales tax on groceries.

An unjust burden

We believe that the grocery tax is an unjust burden on people who simply need to eat. While we had hoped that this bill would include a way to replace the revenue lost over the four years that we cut the tax in half, we are pleased to see that the bill offers a safeguard by limiting the tax cut if the ETF fails to grow.

We share concerns about cutting more revenue to support education. However, we believe that of all the proposals that have been introduced this year to divert ETF funds away from public schools, this bill provides a benefit to low-wage and working-class families who are struggling with the high cost of food. We urge this committee to consider additional ways to cut the full 4% state sales tax on food by finding ways to replace the lost revenue.

Arise appreciates the unprecedented levels of support for this bill from across the political spectrum. We support Rep. Garrett’s proposal and urge you to pass this bill promptly.