Scott Young, Staff Reporter
Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday proposed a 10-cent gas tax hike as part of her “Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan,” a plan designed to raise more funds for building roads and bridges.
“After 27 years of stagnation, adequate funding is imperative to fixing our many roads and bridges in dire need of repair,” said Governor Ivey, announcing her plan. “By increasing our investment in infrastructure, we are also making a direct investment in public safety, economic development, and the prosperity of our state.”
The bill released by Ivey’s office, called the Rebuild Alabama Act, would implement the gas tax increase over three years, with a six-cent increase on August 31, 2019, a two-cent increase in 2020, and a two-cent increase in 2021. After 2023, the Alabama Department of Revenue can adjust the fuel tax by no more than one cent every year based on the National Highway Construction Cost Index. The current rate is 18 cents per gallon of gas and 19 cents per gallon of diesel, a rate that has not changed since 1992.
A $250 license and registration fee would be imposed on electric vehicles and a $150 fee on hybrid-electric vehicles.
According to Ivey, the funds are to be dispersed among state, county, and local governments for “used for transportation infrastructure improvement, preservation and maintenance projects.” 66 percent would go to the state, 25 percent would go to the counties, and eight percent to the cities. Another portion of the funds would be used to pay a bond that would be issued to finance improvements to the Mobile Bay shipping channel.
To justify the gas tax increase, Ivey cites a 2019 report from the University of Alabama’s Transportation Institution that found 69 billion miles were being driven on our roads and bridges every year. TRIP, a national transportation research group, found that 30 percent of major roads and highways are in “poor or mediocre condition”, and that driving on the rough Alabama roads costs taxpayers approximately $507 annually.
“I think it’s going to be positive for the people of Alabama, creating much safer roads and bridges,” said State Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston. “The last time Alabama implemented a gasoline tax was in 1992. We’ve had no increase since then. We’ve actually got data out that Alabamians today are paying less percent for fuel than in ‘92 because standards of living have gone up. Yet the fuel tax has stayed the same. We’ve got people driving cars that get more miles to the gallon, so they’re essentially driving more and paying less.”
Many have voiced their opposition to Ivey’s gas tax hike, expressing concerns that the tax proposed is a burden for the working poor of Alabama. Critics of the proposal argue that the legislature should consider options to allocate revenue that wouldn’t affect lower-income brackets.
“It affects the poorest people the most. Especially in rural areas with no public transit options,” said Pamela Howard, a Democrat who ran for State House District 40 in 2018. “I think we need to raise property taxes and corporate taxes for infrastructure.”
“I do not think a 10-cent gas hike to pay for infrastructure will work or be enough to cover everything. Maybe our state officials should put the money that is saved to build more prisons into infrastructure,” said Kyteria Marshall, a JSU student and National Council Chair of the College Democrats of America.
State Representative Bill Poole (R-63) will be the sponsor of the bill in the House and State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-30) will act as such in the Senate.