Gas tax passes House and Senate

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First of three raises goes into effect in October 

By Denise DuBois

The 10-cent gas tax that was proposed by Gov. Kay Ivey passed the Alabama Legislature on Tuesday during a special session. 

The tax passed the House last week 83-20 and the Senate voted 28-6. 

Representative Chris Blackshear voted yes for the gas tax and explained why. 

“For me, anytime you consider looking at an increase cost in something on citizens, you never want to do that. But after reviewing numbers and seeing what it brings to the local levels—in my four years in Montgomery, this has to be the most transparent and accountable legislation I’ve ever voted on. It guarantees every penny that is generated from this increase will be accounted for on the front end and the back end,” he said. 

The numbers Blackshear referred to include the statistics on the roads and bridges in the state. 

Referencing a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2015, the organization gave the state a D+ for its roads and bridges. Why? Nineteen percent of urban roads in the state are in poor condition. The state is ranked 13th in the nation for the highest percentage of urban interstate in poor condition. Roads should be resurfaced every 15 years by recommendation. 

“Due to lack of funding, county governments are operating on a 56-year resurfacing plan,” Blackshear explained. 

There are 16,129 bridges in the state. Of those, 1,200 are considered structurally deficient and 7,228 are more than 50 years old. The report stated that 15 million vehicles pass over deficient or functionally obsolete bridges every day in Alabama. 

Then there’s the money that will come back to East Alabama since the bill passed. In 2017, Phenix City garnered $282,594 from the current fuel tax. The city will receive an additional $236,291 with the new tax. Russell County received $2.3 million last year. It will receive an additional 1.02 million since the tax passed. Hurtsboro received $5,027 and will receive an additional $17,852. Smiths Station received $26, 056 in 2017 and will bring in an additional $47,454 with the passing of the tax. Lee County received $3.9 million and will receive an additional $1.7 million. 

The last time Alabama raised its gas tax was in 1992 to the current 18 cents. South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida raised the tax in or since 2015. Alabama, Louisiana  and Mississippi have not raised theirs since 1992 or before. 

The tax will be phased in beginning October 2019 by adding six cents. In 2020, it will increase two cents and another two cents in 2021. 

Blackshear noted that even with the increase in the gas tax, Alabama is still ranked the 50th state in the country for taxes on its citizens. 

“We have the fewest taxes collected by citizens in the country,” he said. “If this passes, we’re still ranked 50th.”

He also referenced the unemployment rate being the lowest in the state’s history and the median household income increasing by $10,000 over the last 10 years. 

“We reduced the size of government by 17 percent, but unemployment continues to go down and population has grown,” he said. 

Some have opined that a lottery would have been a way to get more money, however, Blackshear said a state lottery, if it ever came to fruition in Alabama, would benefit the education budget, “And we would still be in the same boat.” 

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming are the only states that do not have a lottery. 

In addition to the gas tax, the law allows for taxes to be levied on electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. The law places an annual $200 fee on electric vehicles and a $100 annual fee on hybrid vehicles.