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Republicans Support Higher Gas Taxes

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, March 17, the Alabama House Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee voted for favorable passage of House Bill 394, sponsored by State Representative Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) that would raise fuel taxes by six cents a gallon, and includes future gas tax increases beyond that to keep generating higher taxes for road construction, as other southern states raise their fuel taxes.

State Representative Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) opposed the bill in committee. Rep. Ainsworth said, “I voted no on this bill in committee today. I’m not in favor of the hard-working people of Alabama having to pay any more taxes, and this is a tax on everyone in the State.

State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) said, “The people of HD30 have made it clear that they are against this tax.”

Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) has been supportive of a gas tax increase. On March 3 Dial said that that it is wrong to call the gas tax a tax. It is really a user fee for motorists that use the roads and bridges. If you walk, ride a bicycle, or ride a horse you don’t pay the tax. People ask me about toll roads, our tolls are paid at the pump rather than the tolls. Dial said that the user fees have not gone up since 1992 and that changes in fuel efficiency of vehicles means that they should. Dial is the sponsor of Senate Bill 180 that would use the gas tax increase money to borrow a $billion for another round of ATRIP type road projects. The Committee also recommended passage of SB180.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said that he visited Geneva County and the school superintendent there told him that the majority of kids there live on dirt roads so when it rains they can’t go to school. “We got some of them in Jefferson County. This starts the process so we can get good roads.”

Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) wrote in his blog, “Proponents of an increased gasoline tax took a divide and conquer approach to move the legislation along. Several contentious points exists with this proposal but the most contentious seemed to be how any new tax revenue would be divided between the state, counties and municipalities. An actual gasoline tax increase has not been introduced (as we near the halfway point of the session) but a formula to distribute any new tax was introduced by SB180 and has worked its way through the Senate receiving final passage Thursday.”

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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.

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is among a diverse group of special interests that supports this legislation. BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said in a statement on their website, “The members of the House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee deserve a word of thanks. The committee today recognized that Alabama’s crumbling infrastructure is unacceptable and supported two responsible bills that will ensure that Alabama maintains a safe, reliable infrastructure network for the people who live, work and do business in Alabama.” Canary said, “Our roads are our arteries of commerce, and safe and effective road and bridge infrastructure is essential to keeping Alabama economically competitive – to attract and retain job creators, keep drivers and passengers safe, and maintain a high quality of life for our citizens.”

On Thursday, March 17, Ann Eubank with the Alabama Legislative Watchdogs announced that they were opposed to raising the gas tax.

HB394 and SB180 now go to the full House of Representatives for their consideration. SB180 has already passed the Senate.

In 2010 Republicans won super majorities in both Houses of the Alabama legislature, promising to keep taxes low and government small.

 

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Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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