Alabama Arise announces roadmap for change
Published at 8:32 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023
By Chris Sanders
Expanding Medicaid and ending the state sales tax on groceries will remain at the top of Alabama Arises’ 2024 legislative agenda. The team will also pursue a multifaceted approach to improve maternal and infant health in Alabama.
More than 500 members voted to determine Arises’ legislative priorities in recent days following the organization’s annual meeting on Saturday. The group focuses on seven priorities, including expanding Medicaid coverage, eliminating Alabama’s grocery tax, restoring voting rights, criminal justice reform, funding public transportation and sentencing reform death.
Alabama Arise Executive Director Robyn Hyden said Arise believes in dignity, fairness and justice for all people. Our 2024 legislative priorities reflect our members’ respect for those values and emphasize the need to enact policies that empower Alabamians of all races, incomes and background to develop their full potential. Together, we are working to build a healthier, more equitable, and more inclusive Alabama for everyone.
An essential step toward a healthier future for Alabama is ensuring everyone can afford the health care they need. Arise members believe that Medicaid expansion is a policy path to that destination, and research provides strong support for that view.
Expanding Medicaid to cover low-income adults would reduce racial health disparities and eliminate financial barriers to health care for nearly 300,000 Alabamians . It will support thousands of new jobs across the state. And most importantly, it will save hundreds of lives every year.
“Medicaid expansion will boost our economy and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Alabamians,” said Hyden. It is time for Alabama policymakers to make investments that will save lives and create jobs for the people of our state. Ensuring the health and well-being of Alabamians now will help our state thrive for decades to come.
Alabama became one of only 10 states that have not expanded Medicaid after North Carolina issued an expansion order in March. The Medicaid expansion will ensure health insurance coverage for nearly 300,000 Alabamians who fall under the coverage gap. . Most of these residents earn too much to qualify for the state’s basic Medicaid program but too little to afford private plans.
Medicaid expansion will also increase access to health care for Alabamians before, during and after pregnancy. This would be an important move to save lives in Alabama, which has the nation’s highest maternal mortality rate. That rate is even higher for black women, who are twice as likely to die in childbirth as white women. Adding to the problem, more than two-thirds of Alabama counties provide little or no maternity or obstetric care.
Alabama took an important step to help families stay healthy by expanding Medicaid postpartum coverage last year, Hyden said. However, that step alone is not enough to meet many of our state’s health care needs. Policymakers should pursue a variety of solutions to make Alabama a better place for parents and babies. At the top of that list is Medicaid expansion to ensure Alabamians of all ages can stay healthy before, during and after conception.
Arises’ new agenda this year is a comprehensive policy approach to protect and expand access to maternal and newborn health care in Alabama. In addition to expanding Medicaid, this approach would promote seamless continuity of care between home and clinical settings. It will include coverage for contraceptive and midwifery services. And it would remove the specter of criminal penalties for doctors who care for pregnant people experiencing life-threatening complications.
Arise’s advocacy came to fruition this year when lawmakers voted unanimously to cut Alabama’s state sales tax on groceries in half. The new law reduced the state’s grocery tax from 4 cents to 3 cents on September 1. Another 1-cent reduction will occur in 2024 or the first year following when education revenues increase by at least 3.5%.
Arise members have advocated for tax-free groceries for decades, and they renewed their commitment to continue that work in 2024. Ending the state grocery tax remains a core priority Arise core because the tax makes it harder for low-income people to make a living. Taxes add hundreds of dollars each year to the cost of families’ basic necessities. And most states have abandoned it: Alabama is one of only 12 states that still tax groceries.
The state grocery tax provided about 7% of Education Trust Fund revenue in the last budget year. But lawmakers have options to eliminate the other half of the state’s grocery tax while protecting funding for public schools. Arise will continue to support legislation to eliminate the grocery tax and replace the revenue by limiting or eliminating the state income tax deduction for federal income taxes. This deduction is a tax break that greatly benefits the wealthiest households.
Reducing the state’s grocery tax is an important step toward correcting the flaws in Alabama’s upside-down tax system, Hyden said. By exempting groceries from taxes and limiting federal income tax deductions, lawmakers can do even more to empower families to put food on the table. Closing this misleading loophole is an opportunity to protect funding for our children’s public schools and ensure Alabama can afford to permanently end the state grocery tax.
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