Proposed gas tax needs to be fair to everyone

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Alabama Legislature is likely to consider a 3-cent gasoline tax to help fund road repairs throughout the state during its 2017 session.

But like proposals before it, this one is mired in controversy.

Proponents of the tax say the plan, endorsed by the Drive Alabama initiative, is desperately needed. Following on the heels of the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement program, which put $1 billion in Alabama road projects during the past four years, this latest proposal would fund $1.2 billion in bonds, providing even more money for desperately needed repairs throughout the state.

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And the cost is literally pennies a day – less than $1.50 per month – for the average Alabama driver.

The proposal prohibits use of the tax funds for equipment, salaries or administrative purposes, seeking to funnel as directly as possible the tax proceeds to road projects.

And it has garnered a tremendous amount of support throughout the state. Even Pike County Engeineer Russell Oliver has long worked to educate the public about the growing gulf between available funding and needed road repairs and maintenance.

But whether or not Alabamians are willing to pay a tax to address that shortfall remains to be seen.

Here in Pike County, commissioners were hesistant to vote to endorse the plan during January meetings, citing the desire to hear from their constituents as well as concerns about the viability of this program. As proposed, the gas tax would generate only $10 million to $12 million for Pike County roads over the life of the program. Exactly how many miles of local roads will be repaired is unclear.

And that is a critical factor.

There is no doubt our roads and infastructure are in poor repair. And the state needs to find a funding mechanism for the ever-growing repairs and maintenance.

But it needs to be fair – to all counties and municipalities – and embraced and supported by taxpayers across the state. And that’s a tall order.