“The purpose of the bill is to develop new coal mining opportunities for the Walker County area,” Roberts said. “We often think about economic development, and we forget about the mining industry being our biggest employer.”
The measure allows coal companies to apply for abatements on sales, use, mortgage, deed and non-educational property taxes. The provision also includes a 5 percent income tax credit for companies that invest beyond $1 million in the coal industry, referred to as an income tax capital credit.
Roberts said the state already offers similar deals to other industries that employ large numbers of Alabama residents, and he felt they should be extended to the coal industry, too.
Some Democrats have criticized the bill, however, saying it will take money away from education budgets and give it to a thriving industry.
Roberts said the hundreds of jobs the measure could create would more than offset the revenue it takes from the state’s general and education funds.
The Legislative Fiscal Office’s note to the bill did not include an estimate of the tax revenue created or used by the measure.
Roberts’ bill passed in the House 80-3.
Roberts is also the sponsor of the Coal Severance Tax, which will be up for a vote Feb. 22. Alabama’s coal tax generates around $2.7 million a year, and Roberts’ legislation will make the distribution of the tax revenue linked to each county’s level of coal production.
He said some counties have no coal operations and receive as much as $100,000 a year from the tax. Meanwhile, Walker County produces 3 million tons and receives $200,000 for economic development and Bevill State’s Alabama Miniming Academy in Sumiton receives $300,000. He said some counties produce as little as 16,000 tons a year and receive $100,000.