House passes gas tax

Published 10:00 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill Friday afternoon that would raise the tax on gas and diesel 10 cents over the next three years.

Rep. Wes Allen, R-Pike, said it was a tough decision, but that that revenue is much-needed in Pike and Dale Counties.

“I carefully reviewed this legislation and the amendments that were introduced,” Allen said. “After considering all the facts made available to me and hearing from constituents across District 89 and elected leaders, including county commissioners of both Dale and Pike Counties, I felt that a yes vote was necessary to ensure that our district received millions of dollars that are vital to improving our roads and bridges.”

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The Pike County Commission has expressed the need for more revenue to fund road and bridge repair in the county.

Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan said the county currently has 175 miles of road that is overdue for paving and 61 bridges posted for low weight.

“Some of those are structurally deficient and some are functionally obsolete,” Sullivan said. “We’re looking at about $32 million worth of work that we need to get done.”

The county does not have the money to get any of that done though, Sullivan said. The county did address 8 to 10 miles of the county’s worst roads in 2018 using a two-year plan that Sullivan said pinched every penny the commission could find.

“With more than 20 bridges so structurally deficient that our school buses can’t utilize and more than a 100-year paving schedule, it was necessary to support this bill. I did not take this vote lightly. I made the determination that the cost of doing nothing was not an option. It is an honor to represent District 89. I look forward to continuing to work hard in the future.”House passes gas tax

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.

“We don’t live on salaries from 1992 so how can we be expected to pave roads on a 1992 budget?” Sullivan said. “Everything has gone way up as far as the cost for paving materials and actually doing the paving, but our revenue stream has not gone up. We’ve suffered and had to get by instead of fixing it.”

Commissioner Chad Copeland, who serves on the legislative committee of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said he had not been able to see the amendments made Friday to the proposed bill, but said the original bill is “the best gas tax bill” he has seen.

“Nobody likes taxes and I’m one of those that don’t,” Copeland said. “I don’t see any other plan that would get us out of the hole that we’re in. This would take us from a 100-year paving cycle to a 26-year cycle; that’s not where we need to be but it’s a heck of a lot better than where we are. If we tried to cut and shut the whole county government down with nothing but the road department for the next five years, we could still not get roads where we need to be; it’s at epidemic levels. This is not perfect, but it’s best bill since I’ve been keeping up with it.”

The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.