In a video published on Rep. Will Ainsworth‘s YouTube account, several conservative Republican state legislators proclaim their opposition to a proposed fuel tax increase currently making its way through the state legislature.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mac McCutcheon, would raise the gasoline tax by 6 cents per gallon initially, but could be reassessed every four years to be adjusted to equal the average of Alabama’s neighboring states.
In the video, published Thursday, Reps. Ainsworth, Mike Holmes, Phil Williams, Arnold Mooney, Ed Henry, Allen Farley, and Mack Butler join with Sens. Bill Holtzclaw, Paul Bussman, Paul Sanford, and Phil Williams to express their disapproval for the legislation.
Ainsworth was the only member of the House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee to vocally dissent to the bill in committee when it was overwhelmingly passed with a voice vote.
Proponents of the bill, including Jeremy L. Arthur, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, and William J. Canary, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, say the increased tax is a much-needed investment in the state’s infrastructure and ability to recruit jobs and businesses.
Ainsworth maintains that he isn’t arguing the importance of infrastructure spending, but believes Alabama should get its fiscal house in order first.
“No one argues the importance of infrastructure spending in Alabama,” he said in the video. “However, before we look at that we need to cut waste, reduce the size of government, and look at best practices in other states.”
Other opponents of the legislation made a similar argument, citing the state’s unusual budgeting process, as well as the high number of government employees.
“Why should we raise the Alabama gas tax when we already transfer $63.5 million away from the Department of Transportation to support other government services?” Sanford said.
“I don’t see how we can talk about raising fuel tax at the gas pumps when for a number of years, there have been several of us at the State House have tried to get a conversation going about looking at our 91-94 percent earmarked budgets,” Farley said.
“Alabama is seventh in the nation in full-time employment, both state and local, that is not education. We need to deal with the size of government, and cut it.”
The legislature will likely take up the bill when it returns from spring break on Tuesday.