A proposed gasoline tax increase to pay for road and bridge construction cleared its first hurdle in the Alabama Legislature on Thursday.
The House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee approved the bill, sending it to the full House of Representatives for a vote that could come in early April.
The proposal would raise the gasoline tax by 6 cents per gallon, a figure that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mac McCutcheon, said would bring Alabama’s fuel tax in line with neighboring states. The tax would then be adjusted every four years to equal the average tax in Alabama’s four border states.
McCutcheon, R-Capshaw, said there is a critical need for infrastructure improvements in the state.
“We cannot continue in our state to allow the infrastructure to deplete because we are afraid to address this issue, as tough as it is,” McCutcheon said.
McCutcheon said the state hasn’t raised gas taxes in more than 25 years, while the cost of road and bridge construction has increased.
The adjustments every four years would assure there is some “growth” in the tax, although lawmakers could reject the increase by passing a joint resolution, he said. The tax would end in 2027, unless lawmakers vote to renew it.
The committee-passed bill also would place an annual fee on vehicles that run solely on alternative fuels, $100 for each private passenger and $150 for commercial vehicles. The committee approved an amendment to the original bill that exempted hybrids from the annual fee.
The proposed gas tax increase comes as many lawmakers say there’s no appetite among legislators for tax increases. McCutcheon said it was an investment in Alabama’s future.
Rep. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville, cast the only no vote against the bill in committee
“I’m just not in favor of the hardworking people in Alabama having to pay any more in taxes,” Ainsworth said after the committee. “I think there is a legitimate argument that there needs to be something done to obviously fix the infrastructure in the state. My position is there are other things we could do in reforming government to come up with the funding,” Ainsworth said.
A slightly different gas tax bill was introduced in last year’s special session but never got a floor vote.
“Tying it to the southeast average has really helped us in terms of members looking at it and understanding that we are not asking for something outlandish,” said Sonny Brasfield, executive director, Association of County Commissions of Alabama.
While the bill moved quickly out of committee Thursday, proponents said they do not expect a floor vote until after lawmakers return from their spring break, now scheduled for March 28.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.