Gas tax increase back in talks as Alabama lawmakers descend on capitol
MONTGOMERY, Ala. —
As state lawmakers prepare to return to Montgomery Tuesday, a conversation about increasing Alabama’s gas tax is renewed.
Alabama hasn’t increased its gas tax since 1992, and some believe an increase would be the answer to the state’s infrastructure needs.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh's office has been leading meetings about improving Alabama’s roads and bridges.
Marsh said he expects an infrastructure plan to formulate by the end of this year’s legislative session, with the revenue stream (potentially a gas tax) worked on in 2019.
But, Marsh acknowledges that if President Donald Trump's infrastructure plan comes to fruition sooner, Alabama may need to act quicker to have the money to bring down matching federal dollars.
“Of course, we all need gas and we're going to pay it anyway,” expressed Kyndria Jones, an Alabama driver.
Jones says she likes Alabama’s low gas prices the way they are.
“Gas is kind of already high for some people already,” she said.
But some state leaders are calling for an increase to fund needed infrastructure improvements.
“I would say it's a growing crisis,” said Drew Harrell, executive director of the Alliance for Alabama’s infrastructure, led by the Business Council of Alabama.
The alliance supports a plan to raise the state's gas tax, which could be used by both the state and local governments to fix roads.
“At the state level, they’re struggling to maintain the current road and bridge system we have today,” said Harrell. “…At the city and county level, they’re way behind as far as maintenance goes on their roads and bridges. You have some counties actually tearing up paved roads and turning them into gravel because they simply don’t have the money to maintain that road.”
David Karn is one driver who's willing to pay more at the pump, a decision he bases on safety.
“Everybody wants to complain, I don't want my taxes to go up,” said Karn. “But yet, when their child is riding around on these roads and hits a pot hole and causes them to lose control of the vehicle, all of a sudden it's the government's fault.”
Although controversial issues like tax increases are often avoided during election years, President Trump's infrastructure plan may force quicker action for state lawmakers.
“If they do see a need to put a plan forth because we see the possibility of losing money the federal government is providing to us, then I think that's worth looking at,” said Harrell.
One idea mentioned Monday by both Senator Marsh and Senator Cam Ward was the idea of a special session dedicated to infrastructure, if a federal plan requires swift state action.