Ivey calls special session to consider gas tax bill

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Alabama Legislature will begin consideration today of a statewide increase in the gas tax to help fund the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges.

The Pike County Commission has been clamoring for a boost in funding recently to address the county’s deteriorating roads.

“It’s time to tackle it – I hope that’s how they feel,” said Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan before the language of the bill was revealed. “I hope from our standpoint that we can come to some kind of agreement.”

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Sullivan said he has not yet read the bill to see whether he or other commissioners support the measure as written.

“If the bill is favorable to the counties, we’re going to be behind it,” Sullivan said. “Addressing our roads is one of the top priorities for the county and has been for quite some time.”

In the bill, Gov. Kay Ivey proposes 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase to fund road and bridge construction.

Ivey pitched the issue as a necessity to address crumbling infrastructure, holding a press conference by an aging rural bridge that local officials say could soon be closed because of safety concerns. “This is an issue that is felt by every Alabamian,” Ivey said.

Rep. Bill Poole, the sponsor of the gas tax legislation, said he is “optimistic we will be able to secure the support that will be necessary to pass it.”

“It’s a hard issue. It is going to be a passionate debate. It is perfectly fine for folks to disagree on options, but at the end of the day this is the best option that we have to address this issue in my opinion,” Poole said.

The proposed 10-cent gas tax increase would be phased in over three years. The tax would then be indexed to construction costs so it could be adjusted up to a penny every two years without legislative approval. Alabama’s current state gas tax of 18 cents a gallon has been unchanged since 1992 and is among the lowest in the nation, according to comparisons from the American Petroleum Institute.

When fully implemented, the tax increase would bring in an estimated $320 million each year. The money would go almost entirely to road and bridge projects. Ten million dollars would be steered to the state port in Mobile, which Ivey said is crucial to the state’s economic development.

The gas tax would increase by 6 cents on Oct. 1, 2019, and by 2 cents Oct. 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021. The state would receive 66.67 percent of the revenue, the counties would get 25 percent and cities would get 8.33 percent.

The proposed tax increase, by law, must start in the House of Representatives. Republican House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said House leadership is supporting the measure.

Rep. Wes Allen, R-Pike, said he first saw the bill Friday and is still doing his research on it.

“I’m in the fact-finding phase now and hearing from all sides,” Allen said. “This is a work in progress and I’m looking at how this bill affects Pike and Dale Counties.”

The total cost of the bull to the average Alabama driver will be $55 a year based on 12,000 annual miles driven at a fuel efficiency of 22 miles per gallon.