By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
In 2015, powerful forces led by Governor Robert Bentley (R) pushed the State Legislature for massive tax increases to help the state general fund (SGF). It took nine months and three sessions; but eventually $66 million a year in cigarette, nursing home bed, and prescription drug taxes passed the Republican dominated state legislature. None of that new money went to roads. Now those powerful road building special interests are gathering momentum to push for raising fuel taxes to fund more roadwork. Gov. Bentley recently told the Alabama Asphalt Association that he would sign the gas tax hikes if the legislature passes it, but he would not lead the push like he did in 2015. That puts the pressure on the legislature and most of them have not made their positions publicly known.
On Wednesday, January 6, State Representative Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) went on the record with a statement on Facebook announcing that he is against this tax increase.
Representative Williams wrote, “There is a great stirring in Alabama as many politicians and organizations that depend upon state government are gearing up for a tax increase push in 2016. This particular tax increase is on gasoline. Here are a few reasons why I am AGAINST this tax increase.”
Williams said that many of those pushing for this campaigned on a NO new TAXES pledge. Williams said that he, “Would expect our leadership to be more in tune with working families and small businesses than they seem to be.” Williams said that to his knowledge there is no existing list of priorities.
Rep. Williams said, “Road projects are probably the most politically connected ” buddy deals ” of anything our state undertakes. While there could be a bridge in Alabama that is truly unsafe, but a “connected” politician might get a project in his/her district for something that is not a safety concern at all. Also, if Madison-Limestone county raises $1.00 from this new tax only .45 stays in the local county. Does this sound fair to you?”
Williams said that, “The proponents of this tax increase will NOT agree to let the people vote on this bill through our constitutional amendment process. Bet you lunch, the people would vote this new tax down and tell government to live within its means. The politicians feel they know best and/or have access to critical information that the average person does not have or could not grasp. But there is a “road show” about to kick off and will hopefully land in your town too. But you will probably be at work and the meeting will probably be during normal work hours.”
Rep. Williams said, “The Alabama Department of Transportation claims that they have evolved into a “pass through” entity and state employees don’t perform actual construction as they once did. What is their pass through rate to this army of subcontractors? What are their bid/RFP procedures? How many employees did they have 20, 15, 10, 5 and 2 years ago? What is the cost to the taxpayers for their benefits/salaries? Why did they build the $10M admin building on prime Birmingham real estate?”
Williams said, “For the record, I am not anti-tax increase all the time. Challenges with road construction should be solved at the local level.”
Rep. Williams has publicly campaigned to replace embattled Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) who faces an impending March trial on 23 counts of criminal ethics violations. Few legislators have dared to tell Mike Hubbard to his face that he should step down and it is uncertain whether the legislators will ask for a vote on new leadership or not before the 2016 Regular Session.
Williams wrote, “Elected officials throw the word “statesman” around all the time. To me a “statesman” only applies to those that stand on principles, have a heart for the people and their freedom, liberty and finances, and have a vision for how to lead to a better place. A true statesman is probably a bit of a loner and unpopular with government “elites”.”
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. The proposed 12 cents a gallon state tax increase would raise that to 51.3 cents on gasoline and 58.3 cents on diesel.