By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama State Legislature is gearing up for another busy regular legislative session and one proposal that is being bandied about by legislators is raising gas taxes so that more money can be spent building and repairing more roads around the state,
On Saturday, January 2, State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) asked his constituents on Facebook what their views were on the subject. Rep. Butler said, “Some in our government are calling for a tax increase on gasoline. I have the honor to represent the fine folks of HD 30 and as your representative I request your feedback. Is this something you would like to happen? The claim is the monies would be used to improve our roads and bridges. What say you?’
A number of people responded publicly. Most were opposed.
Rep, Butler replied, “I was pretty certain I already knew the answer but as your representative I wanted to ask. I hope my legislative colleagues are doing the same.” “Thank you all so much for your input. I have heard you loud and clear. I always appreciate knowing your thoughts on each issue.”
The Alabama Media Group’s Mike Cason recently reported that raising the gas taxes now that fuel prices have dropped is an idea that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) told the Alabama Asphalt Pavement Association that he would support at their convention in Montgomery. Gov. Bentley reportedly said that he would not lead the effort, but would support a bill and sign it if it came to his desk.
Alabama motorists currently pay 16 cents per gallon to the state of Alabama. The federal government collects another 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. County and municipal governments also levee their own taxes on fuels. According to gaspricewatch.com Alabama averages 39.3 cents of taxes per gallon of gas and 46.3 cents in taxes on every gallon of diesel bought for over the road use.
Special interests like the road builders and the county commissioners have been advocating for higher gas prices for the last several years. They claim that improving fuel efficiencies mean that today’s cars drive more miles but pay less gas taxes per mile of used and that the increase is needed to make up the difference.
Raising gas taxes to fund more road work around the state could be part of a larger comprehensive revenue package that could include higher taxes and possibly a lottery for the troubled state general fund (SGF). The Governor had requested $700 million in new revenues for the general fund in 2015; but only got $66 million a year in higher cigarette taxes, nursing home bed taxes, prescription drug taxes, and fee increases as well as $66 million in existing use taxes that were transferred from the education trust fund (ETF). The Governor is also expected to propose a costly expansion of the state’s troubled Medicaid System to include over 200,000 more poor people. The Governor has not said how he would pay for the massive new entitlement program.
In Governor Bentley’s first term he opposed raising taxes, expanding Medicaid, or expanding gaming in the state and was re-elected in a landslide. Many conservatives argue that the state has not done enough to downsize its own considerable budget and are likely to oppose raising the fuel taxes.