It’s possible the gas tax increase doesn’t pass the Alabama legislature. For the past several weeks, our elected officials have been operating and talking as if the gas tax hike inevitably will pass. But it could fail.
Actually, it may not even make it out of the House.
There are 105 members of the Alabama House of Representatives. If the gas tax bill comes in a special session, as many now suspect it will, a simple majority of 53 votes will pass the tax hike in the House and move it up to the Senate.
Right now, there are 28 highly probably votes in favor of the gas tax hike. These votes come from those who are in “leadership” or can be removed as chairmen of the House’s standing committees in the event of a no vote. Those votes probably are fairly solid votes in favor of raising the gas tax.
That leaves 25 votes needed to pass the gas tax out of the House.
If I’m a Democrat, I make the Republicans pass this tax increase alone. How does it benefit the Democrats to join the Republicans to pass this tax? Democrats are an endangered species in the Alabama Legislature, and taking pressure off of Republicans by passing their tax increases for them isn’t going to reverse their trend toward extinction.
Rep. Bill Poole, who chairs the education funding committee and will sponsor the gas tax hike, reportedly is sizing up a lackey to sponsor a bill that will remove several hundred millions of dollars a year from the Education Trust Fund.
In essence, the result of the gas tax may be trading school funding for road funding. That’s not exactly the platform of the Democratic Party.
So assume the Democrats lock arms and sit out the gas tax, if for no other reason than to protect the education budget.
So how do Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Governor Kay Ivey get 25 more votes in the House to increase the gas tax?
After subtracting the 28 yes votes likely coming from budget chairs and members of leadership from 77 Republican House members, you have 49 Republican members walking around with the power to raise or kill the tax increase.
These are split nearly evenly between freshmen and veteran Republicans. There are an astonishing 24 freshmen Republicans in the House.
Not one of them ran on raising taxes, but they’re being asked to cast their very first vote in favor of raising taxes on Alabama’s middle class.
I’m guessing a large percentage of these freshmen easily will take a hard pass on signing that suicide pact.
Assume the freshmen vote no.
That leaves 25 non-freshmen, non-chairmen, non-leadership Republicans available to vote yes on the gas tax increase.
And assuming the Democrats and freshmen Republicans take a pass on raising taxes, every single one of them will be needed to pass the gas tax out of the House.
Keep in mind these are folks thought so little of by Speaker McCutcheon that they weren’t asked to be in leadership or chair a committee.
Maybe some of them don’t appreciate being overlooked and then asked to jump on a grenade and raise taxes. Or maybe some of them just don’t believe in raising taxes.
For every member of this group of overlooked veterans of the Alabama Republican Caucus who votes no, the tax hikers will have to go find a Democrat or freshman Republican lawmaker to vote yes.
Can they do it?
But maybe not.
And if they can’t, that’s how the gas tax might fail.
Baron Coleman is a lawyer, radio talk show host on News & Views on 93.1 FM, and political consultant based out of Montgomery, Ala.