By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
While most of the press and public are focused on what Governor Robert Bentley and his former Chief Political Advisor did or did not do, the road builders and their allies with the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) are pushing legislators to pass a series of fuel taxes.
These taxes will raise the price of Alabama gas by six cents a gallon, immediately, and automate future fuel tax increases, as other southern states raise their taxes on fuel. The bill also levies a tax on the owners of alternative fuel vehicles. The BCA argues that the money is needed to improve infrastructure. A number of conservative legislators have made a youtube video to announce their opposition to the controversial tax increase plan.
State Representative Wil Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) said, “We are excited to lead the opposition against the Montgomery politicians trying to raise your gas taxes.”
State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) said that he understands Alabama’s infrastructure has needs, but a tax increase is not the way.
State Representative Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) said, “Folks we are talking about $200 million tax increase.”
Rep. Ed. Henry (R-Hartselle) asked, “How can we raise taxes on the people of Alabama when the executive branch…..the Governor is giving $800,000 in raises to his closest friends and confidantes?”
Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) said that Alabama is the seventh highest state in the country in state and local non-education employment. We need to look at the size of government and cut it.
State Representative Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) asked why would I vote for a raise on the taxes on the people of Alabama when the state tax code is already so unfair on working Alabamians?
Rep. Henry said that we have a culture of waste in Montgomery.
Rep. Allen Farley (R-McCalla) said that some of us have been asking for years that we look at why 90 to 94 percent of the state budget is earmarked.
Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) said that Alabama has the most convoluted budget process in America.
State Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) said that for the last several years the people of Alabama have been paying high gas prices. Now that they are low is not a reason to raise gas taxes.
The fuel tax increase bill, House Bill 394, is sponsored by Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw). HB394, the Road and Bridge Funding Measure, would provide an increase in gasoline and diesel fuel excise taxes effective October 1, 2016. The amount of the increase would be determined by establishing the average of Alabama’s border states gas taxes and fees as the benchmark for our gas and diesel taxes using totals as determined by the American Petroleum Institute?
The average is currently 26 cents which would result in an increase of 6 cents per gallon in diesel and gasoline effective Oct. 1, 2016 The bill provides for benchmarking the rate of Alabama’s gasoline and diesel fuel taxes into the future by maintaining the linkage between Alabama’s tax rates and those of the border states with adjustments to take place on October 1 of 2019, 2023 and 2027 unless the Alabama Legislature adopts a joint resolution prohibiting the increase from taking effect. If a future legislature did block the automatic gas tax increase HB364 would allow a county to call a public referendum on a local tax of no more than 2 cents per gallon.
The bill also punishes owners of “alternative fuel” vehicles with an extra $100 for personal vehicles and $150 for commercial vehicles. The sponsors estimated that this amount represents approximately half of the annual amount of gasoline tax that would be paid by these vehicles if they utilized only petroleum products. The bill would also force counties and cities to have a public referendum if they wanted to raise their local fuel taxes in the future.
HB394 has come out of committee and could be voted on by the full House as early as Tuesday.