Gas tax was the best option for state

Published 10:12 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

Last week, I cast my first votes as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives and, amongst those votes, was one of the most difficult decisions that I will likely ever have to make in the Alabama State House. That vote was to increase the fuel tax and I strongly believe that, after a great deal of research, deeply studying the statistics and facts presented to me, listening to the constituents of District 89 and prayer, that I cast the vote that was best for Pike and Dale counties.

I am never a fan of increasing taxes. I believe in running government as efficiently as it can be run. I believe in cutting waste. I believe my record in Pike County proves that. I also believe that this vote is an example of conservative policy. I believe, for the first time in decades, the Alabama House and Senate chose to put politics aside and come together to pass a bill that was good, fiscally conservative policy.

For most of us, our homes are our largest investments. When the roof on your house begins leaking, you can fix it immediately or you can ignore it and allow the leak to get larger and larger until rainwater begins streaming into your home. After time, everything in your house will be ruined and the cost of repairs and replacing everything that unrepaired leak ruined will be far greater than the cost of the initial leak. It is no different with our infrastructure that has deteriorated for decades and we must begin taking fiscally responsible steps to begin repairs.

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I was presented with three options. One was to do nothing and keep funding levels exactly as they have been for nearly 30 years, while fuel tax revenues declined, construction costs are increasing and vehicles are significantly more fuel efficient.  The second option was to borrow hundreds of millions dollars and leave it to our children and grandchildren to worry about how to pay it back later. The third was to vote to increase the fuel tax which is the fairest way to ensure that all of our road’s users including, out of state truckers, tourists and out of state college students who currently use our roads and bridges but contribute nothing to maintaining them, begin to pay their fair share. Contrary to internet rumors, this legislation does not raise the tag or registration fees on any gas or diesel combustion vehicles.

When evaluating those three options, I was never willing to do nothing at all because the cost of doing nothing is not zero. In District 89, we have more than 20 posted bridges – bridges that are not safe for school buses or first responders to cross, bridges that farmers can not cross to take their product to market, bridges that have been neglected by decades due to a philosophy of kicking the can down the road. The second option would have flown in the face of every fiscally conservative ideal that I have ever been taught. I was taught that we pay for what we use and we don’t borrow money when we don’t have to. We don’t need to continue to ignore our financial responsibilities and pass those burdens on to our children and grandchildren. That is neither conservative nor financially responsible. That is how we got here. For decades, the burden was passed onto the future. Continuing that trend would have been helpful to nobody in our district now, or 30 years from now.

Millions of dollars will come back to Pike and Dale Counties for the explicit purpose of repairing bridges and roads that we all drive on each and every day. This legislation ensures that every dollar that results from this tax must go only to infrastructure. None may be spent on salaries, benefits or extraneous expenses, only the direct costs of repairing our crumbling roads and bridges.

I do know that it was the time to begin to do the most conservative thing we can do, to pay our own way, ensure our economy keeps growing and that our roads are bridges are safer. Although this legislation is not perfect, it is far better than doing nothing and far, far better than putting our children and grandchildren into even more debt.

Alabama Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, represents Pike County.