By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Supporters of raising the taxes on Alabama’s gasoline and diesel fuel have introduced another bill that they hope to pass this session while all the focus is on the impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley. The Alabama Road and Bridge Rehabilitation and Improvement Authority would be established to finance road and bridge rehabilitation and improvements and issue $2.4 billion in new bond debt. All the new tax money would be pledged to pay down the debt. Supporters are calling this massive building works project ATRIP-II and would be administered similarly to the old ATRIP program. House Bill 487 was introduced by State Representative Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa).
The bill is currently pending committee action by the House Transportation Utilities and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday at 3:00 pm in room 410 of the Statehouse. Committee meetings are normally held on Wednesday; but the schedule has been modified this week because of the Bentley impeachment hearings in the Judiciary Committee. The House will not go into session until 4:30 P.M. giving the committees time to meet during the day. Seven House Committees are scheduled for Tuesday and nine are scheduled for Wednesday in addition to the ongoing House Judiciary Committee meetings on impeachment that begin at 10:00 am on Monday. There will be a public hearing where both opponents and supporters of raising fuel taxes will be given the opportunity to speak at Tuesday’s public hearing.
State Representative Kyle South (R-Fayette) wrote on Facebook: “If you watch the news you know there is plenty going on in Montgomery right now, but one topic that continues to resurface is the need for additional infrastructure funding. I don’t think anyone denies the need, but many are at odds about how that funding should look. The most recent proposal would include an immediate $.04 increase with an additional $.02 in two years, and would also include a conditional/optional $.03 in 2024(Gas and Diesel). These funds could only be spent on road projects; NOT to hire new employees, give raises, etc. Also there will be accountability measures put in place so that citizens can track projects, progress, costs, etc. via a website dedicated to just that accountability. Half of this funding would be administered directly by the counties/cities, the other half by ALDOT via a bond issue much like the prior ATRIP program.”
Special interests led by the road builders, the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), and the County Commissioners Association have been pushing this plan for two years.
The Alliance for Alabama Infrastructure claims that Alabamians spend $320 a year on extra vehicle maintenance and repairs due to the road conditions and claim that roadway features contribute to up to one third of Alabama’s traffic fatalities.
Current Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) carried this plan during the 2016 Legislative Session; but did not bring it to the floor of the House due to a promised filibuster in the Senate by conservatives who opposed raising taxes on the working people of Alabama.
Some Legislators have privately told The Alabama Political Reporter that borrowing $2 billion for roads and $800 million for prisons should wait until after the new Governor is selected in 2018 and that the Bentley administration is in not competent to effectively manage such massive new capital projects.