District attorney proposes 5 percent increase to county liquor sales tax

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The Lee County District Attorney’s Office has proposed a 5 percent increase to the sales tax of liquor.

If passed, 80 percent of the money gained from the tax would benefit the district attorney’s office, while the remaining 20 percent would benefit the Lee County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

Even though the District Attorney’s office is a state agency, it does not get the majority of its funding from the state. This year, the state of Alabama is only providing 17 percent of the Lee County district attorney’s budget. The other 83 percent, said Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes, has to be raised by the DA’s office itself.

Hughes said the tax increase would help offset the lack of state funding they receive, which has been cut by $94,000 over the past five years.

Funding from the state that the district attorney’s office does receive is limited to paying for employee salaries and benefits, but according to Hughes, it isn’t even enough for that.

“The $275,000 we’re getting from the state of Alabama this year, that’s not even close to what we need to even make payroll,” Hughes said. “To keep our child support unit running, to keep our restitution recovery unit running, these are the kinds of things that would be helped by being funded by this liquor tax.”

Much of their funding now comes from court costs, bail bonds, restitution collection and other fees that fluctuate from year to year. Hughes considers the 5 percent increase on liquor to be a more reliable source of revenue.

In order to be passed, the proposition must first be advertised in the local area before going to a committee in the Legislature. If it passes there, it will then go to the Senate floor and the House floor, a process that could allow the tax to go into effect as early as this summer.

“No one likes taxes,” Hughes said. “I don’t care to pay taxes, but I’m in a tough spot where I’m having to fund an office that is a necessary function of government. I believe that public safety is a function that government is entrusted to do, and we are an arm of that, and it’s keeping people safe, and we’re not getting adequate funding to do that. We’re asking for a tax on a voluntary thing that will fund a very necessary entity.”

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