With possible gas tax hike on the horizon, Senate committee approves ALDOT oversight bill

gas pump
[Photo Credit: Robert Geiger via Flickr]

With a possible gas tax hike on the horizon, some lawmakers are hoping new Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) oversight and transparency measures make the voting for the tax hike easier to stomach.

Which is why the Alabama Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would do just that.

“We’re getting some of the accountability and transparency back, and that’s important. I needed that to be able to support (the bill),”Athens-Republican, State Rep. Danny Crawford told The News Courier.

The committee passed Pratville-Republican, State Sen. Clyde Chambliss‘ S.B. 2, which requires that the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), ALDOT’s long-range plan of road and bridge projects in Alabama, be constantly available on ALDOT’s website, along with any updates of the STIP plan.

“This bill dramatically increases oversight and accountability for the Department of Transportation,” Chambliss said. “Governor Ivey has put forward her Rebuild Alabama plan for modernizing Alabama’s infrastructure, and I support her proposal. At the same time, the Legislature is tasked with making sure tax dollars are being spent in a transparent, efficient, and accountable manner.”

Increasing transparency, accountability

Gov. Kay Ivey‘s 10-cent gas tax increase proposal is part of her Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan. It would be implemented over a three-year period to fund the state’s infrastructure improvements.

Ivey’s plan appropriates 66.67 percent of the funds raised from the gas tax to the ALDOT, leaving many lawmakers looking for more transparency and accountability before a final vote on the tax increase.

“At the end of the year, they would have to show where the money was spent and it will be audited,” Crawford told The News Courier. “We don’t want any dollars going to equipment or employee raises.

“Accountability is an important piece of Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama plan. We still have work to do but I believe that at the end of the day we will have a piece of legislation that holds ALDOT accountable for the work they do and the money they spend,” explained Anniston-Republican, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. “This measure of oversight must be approved to show the taxpayers how money is been used to improve roads and bridges in Alabama. I want to thank the Transportation Committee for their work on this important piece of legislation.”

S.B. 2 also reorganizes the Alabama Legislative Joint Transportation Committee, which has responsibility for reviewing the long-term plans and budget for the Department of Transportation. Chambliss’ plan specifies the Joint Transportation Committee will meet four times per year at the Statehouse, and mandates that members will be automatically removed if they miss two meetings in a calendar year.

Apparent bipartisan support

When Chambliss’ proposal was introduced in the Senate last week, Greensboro-Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton welcomed the legislation as something both sides of the aisle could support.

“Accountability is a bipartisan issue and I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that our transportation dollars are spent wisely and efficiently. Infrastructure is important to our future and we must make the most of every dollar,” Singleton said.