(U-WIRE) TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – When the Alabama Legislature convenes on Feb. 5, the SGA-supported bill to remove sales taxes from college textbooks will be waiting to be considered.
After the Legislature did not consider the bill last year, SGA President R.B. Walker said they reintroduced the bill. State Sen. Roger Bedford is sponsoring the bill, Walker said, and they have already pre-filed it.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum going into it,” Walker said.
This year, Walker said they are better prepared than last year, when they did not even introduce the bill until two-thirds of the way through the legislative session.
He said they showed a PowerPoint presentation about the issue across the state more than 100 times in the fall to let more people know about the issue. He also said they have met with many legislators to explain why textbook prices have become a problem for college students.
Jesse Woods, an SGA senator for the College of Engineering, has played a large role in planning the textbook bill proposal. As they have met with the legislators, Woods said they have tried to explain how much the cost of textbooks has increased since many of the legislators were in college.
“It used to be that the tax on a $20 book wasn’t that much,” Woods said. “Now where you’re spending $400, $500, $600 on textbooks, it starts to really add up.”
Woods said the cost of textbooks has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation in the past 10 years.
Because the cost of textbooks is not an issue most legislators are familiar with, Bedford said last year was a good opportunity when they first introduced the bill to start raising awareness among legislators about the issue.
“With any new issue, you have to educate the Legislature about the importance,” Bedford said. “If someone doesn’t have a child in college, they probably aren’t aware.”
He said he was just as clueless when it came to the cost of textbooks before his son, who is a junior, started college at the University.
But with the already shaky state budget for next year, Bedford said he thinks there will be a little resistance to the idea of removing the sales tax because of the budget shortage.
“It’s easier to do this when there’s plenty of money,” he said.
To get more colleges to support the bill in the Legislature, Walker said the University helped to found the University Student Presidents’ Council, which every SGA president at an Alabama public four-year institution has joined.
The council decided to endorse the bill to remove sales taxes from textbooks, so, in theory, Walker said the bill has the endorsement of every college student in the state through their elected student president.
Walker said every state that surrounds Alabama has already passed legislation to remove sales taxes from textbooks or has at least proposed legislation.
“We deserve a break,” Walker said. “We’re paying too much for college, and we need to let our elected representatives know that we’re tired of it.”
Removing the sales tax would also be an incentive for students to pursue higher education in the same way that the government deducts taxes from land and utilities to entice businesses to invest in Alabama.
Woods said the state spent $811 million to get Thyssen-Krup to build a plant in Mobile. Investing in students would lead to economic development also, and he said the cost of removing the sales tax would be much lower.
And he said taxing textbooks is a direct tax on education.
“You can’t take a class and learn anything without buying a textbook, so essentially our government is taxing your education,” Woods said.