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Poll: Alabamians split on whether to raise gas tax for infrastructure investment

Chip Brownlee

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Alabamians are split on whether to raise the state’s gas tax to fund investments in road and bridge infrastructure.

A poll conducted Feb. 8 through 12 shows Alabamians divided on the issue.

About 45 percent of respondents said the state should increase fuel taxes to pay for investments, while 48 percent said the state should not increase the fuel tax.

More than 86 percent of respondents agreed that the state needs to spend more money on roads and bridges, but not all of those agreed that taxes should be raised to fund the investment.

More than half of respondents said the Alabama Department of Transportation does not manage existing tax revenue efficiently and leaders do not have an effective published plan for handling the needs of the state’s roads and bridges.

Only 11 percent said the state spends road and bridge money wisely.

The poll, paid for by the Alabama Forestry Association, comes as lawmakers are preparing to return to Montgomery for the 2019 legislative session. Leaders in both chambers have identified a gas tax increase as their top priority, and Gov. Kay Ivey has been supportive.

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A report from the University of Alabama’s Alabama Transportation Institute and Alabama Transportation Policy Research Center released earlier this month found the state needs to invest between $600 million and $800 million annually for the next 20 years to meet infrastructure needs.

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The gas tax hasn’t been increased or adjusted for inflation since 1992.

Alabama’s gas tax revenues have lost and continue to lose purchasing power because of inflation. Increasing fuel efficiency, fleet changes and electric vehicles are also cutting into gasoline and diesel tax revenues.

The changes have been so significant that any purchasing power gained from the last fuel tax increase of a nickel per gallon in 1992 has been negated.

Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed opposition. Some more conservative members of the GOP caucus oppose any tax increases, while Democrats on the left oppose the tax because they say it falls disproportionately on the back of the working class.

Those polled said there are a couple of things the state could do to get their support for a gas tax increase. Sixty-one percent said they would favor increasing the fuel tax if that state reduces the grocery tax by the same amount, making the tax increase revenue neutral.

More than 90 percent said the state should include “strict accountability measures” in any fuel tax increase legislation.

Respondents had some other issues with the state’s fiscal decisions.

For the past nine years, GOP lawmakers — at the request of the Govs. Robert Bentley and Kay Ivey — have moved more than $300 million out of funds earmarked for road and bridge repairs and deposited it into an account that covers the costs of our court system.

Those polled said they would not support a fuel tax increase if they learned money was being diverted to other state agencies.

The poll surveyed 605 Alabamians using both landlines and cell phones.

 

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