Gas tax proposal not a cure-all for state’s road woes

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Folks in Pike County and throughout Alabama are stuck between a tax and a hard place.

The Alabama Association of County Commissions is trying to drum up support for an additional 3-cent gasoline tax in the state, designed to fund much-needed road and bridge repairs throughout the state. The additional tax would be used to repay a $1.2 billion bond issue, with those bond proceeds allocated to the counties for use in road repairs.

But based on local and statewide reactions, marshaling that support is proving difficult.

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The ACCA is encouraging county commissions to pass resolutions in support of the tax, hoping those resolutions would add some political pressure to state lawmakers who would have to address the bill in the Legislature.

But here in Pike County, commissioners are reluctant to do that. The commission held a public meeting on Monday, seeking feedback from taxpayers about the proposed tax increase. County Engineer Russell Oliver laid out the need, explaining that the gas tax has remained level for 25 years, even though costs to repair and resurface roads have increased significantly. In Pike County alone, 118 miles of the 764 miles of roadway need to be resurfaced. However, the county has funding for only about 3.5 miles of resurfacing each year.

And while a 3-cent gas tax will help – allowing the county to resurface as much as 60 miles of roads over the next 15 years –  it won’t solve that problem.

Alabama drivers currently pay 20.01 cents a gallon in gasoline taxes, so adding the 3-cent tax would only amount to a 54-cent increase on an 18-gallon fill-up for drivers.

That’s not much, on the surface, but the truth is the tax as proposed leaves many questions unanswered and likely won’t solve the bigger issue.

Counties – including Pike County – need to find ways to provide local funding for road and bridge repairs, in addition to the state funding. That’s a tall order, especially for rural counties with limited revenue streams and mounting expenses. And we don’t have the answers on how commissioners could eek out those funding sources on a local level.

But we do believe that resolving the pitiful state of roads and bridges throughout Alabama is going to require more than just a short-term, 3-cent per gallon fix. And our local commissioners seem to understand that.

The challenge will be finding that solution.