Opelika city leaders oppose bill aimed to help local pharmacies

OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - With tax dollars now on the line city leaders now oppose legislation that may help independent pharmacies in the area.

A couple of bills making their way around the Alabama State Legislature have prompted the Opelika City Council to pass a resolution that does not approve the potential measures.

If passed, these new laws may help independent pharmacies across the state.

From the city government's perspective, both Alabama Senate Bill 31 and House Bill 58 may cost them significant tax revenue.

Still, local pharmacists are supporting the legislation.

According to Lillie Finley, the city's revenue officer, the city's funds would take an almost $45,000 loss.

"It would mean a loss of revenues for the city, and the business license revenues are deposited into the general fund," Finley said.

The bills call for prescription drugs, sold at independent pharmacies, to become exempt from business license taxes.

Currently, in Opelika, independent pharmacies are classified as retail stores; their business licenses reflect the fact that these shops sell both prescription and non-prescription items.

Jeff Jerkins, the owner of Bubba's Medicine Shop on 2nd Avenue, said having this bill would help validate his chosen profession in the government's eyes.

"We, as pharmacists, are not treated as professionals," he said.  "It's not that we're against paying taxes- we're still going to pay taxes if this bill passes. We're just going to be taxed on things like everybody else."

And if the bills are passed, Jerkins said he and his fellow pharmacy owners would take the profits from the exemption and re-invest them into the community.

"They all love the city like I do. They all give back to the city in the same way," he said.

"They've always been a mainstay in the city. All these pharmacies have not been here just 5, 10 years- they've been here 20, 30, 40 years."

Finley and the city government argues pharmacies would get an unfair advantage over other business with similar licenses and tax payment structures.

"We're designed to promote a sense of fairness. And if we grant this exception, I don't see how it's promoting that sense of fairness," Finley said.

The city of Opelika isn't alone in its viewpoint. Finley said counterparts in other cities like Auburn, Birmingham, and Mobile also oppose the exemption of prescription drugs from business license taxes.

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