Del Marsh: We’ll still have the nation’s lowest cumulative tax burden after Rebuild Alabama passes
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” Thursday morning, giving an in-depth interview about the infrastructure legislation set to be considered in the current special session.
While the House needs to finish with the Rebuild Alabama bill – which would raise infrastructure revenue – before it heads to the Senate, Marsh told Jackson that the votes are ultimately there in his chamber to pass the legislation.
He then explained that the special session process will allow ample time for the legislation to be examined and debated, especially considering every member of the legislature has known for months this issue would be coming up as the body’s first priority.
“I don’t think you’ll see debate limited,” Marsh advised. “There was this talk about this thing being done in five days, and I think that’s not going to happen.”
The earliest the Senate could get the bill from the House is Friday. Marsh said he would give the Senate the weekend off to look at the legislation passed by the House if that possible timeline does come true.
“We’re not rushing this thing,” he said, “But by doing this special [session] in the regular [session], it saves the taxpayers money – it is not a big additional cost to do that. It does focus this issue, so the people can focus on it, as well as the legislature. Because this is the issue at hand.”
Building on his comment about saving the taxpayers money, Marsh outlined that the Republican legislature’s diligent work since 2010 in cutting costs, decreasing taxes and increasing government efficiency has put the state in a position to pass Rebuild Alabama without it hurting the average, hard-working Alabamian.
“Why are we even in a position to [be able to] look at infrastructure? One, we need to do it. But let’s look at what’s happened since 2010, since Republicans have controlled the legislature,” Marsh said. “We eliminated a lot of costly programs… 300 obsolete laws we’ve eliminated, we have reduced the size of state government – not talking about teachers, but state employees – by 15 percent. 15 percent. Our median income in the state of Alabama has gone from $41,000 to $51,000+. That’s a 20 percent increase that our citizens are making today under [the Republican legislature]. Unemployment is under four percent. 200,000 more people are working.”
He continued, “And we have, if you look at all 50 states, if you look at all the taxes – state taxes, city/municipal taxes – a citizen pays in Alabama, we are 50th — the lowest in the country in cumulative taxes. And if this [fuel] tax [increase] passes… guess what? We’ll still be 50th.”
Marsh added that if Rebuild Alabama passes, not only will Alabamians “still have the lowest taxes in the country,” but they will finally have a major chance for road and bridge projects in their own communities to get completed.
The Senate leader emphasized that the strong accountability portion of the legislation, especially found in HB 1, will provide significantly increased oversight and transparency to ALDOT. Members of the public will even be able to go online and find the projects slated in the department’s five-year planning.
“Early on in this process, I acknowledged that without strong accountability for ALDOT, we’d have no success,” Marsh said.
The legislature will have the necessary accountability on ALDOT through a revamped Joint Transportation Committee, with the annual legislative budget process as the body’s ultimate recourse. There will also be public hearings where members of the public can make their case for specific infrastructure projects.
“We’ve got it to where if we don’t put the language in the budget, [ALDOT] can’t spend the money,” Marsh advised. “And we want a list every year of every project in the state, county-by-county, of what’s being done, what’s on the plan, to be posted on their [website] for the citizens to see. They can go to it at any time.”
He said that specific road and bridge projects are not included in the Rebuild Alabama plan because that would lead to horse trading, with legislators demanding pork in exchange for their votes.
With the new accountability mechanisms throughout the three bills on the special session agenda, Marsh concluded, “[I]f it’s a project that the state needs, it’s going to have a fair shake in the [joint transportation] committee and with ALDOT.”
Right now, 92 percent of annual state infrastructure funding has to be spent just on maintenance of current roads and bridges.
However, with the much-needed revenue from Rebuild Alabama, the state, counties and municipalities will also finally have the necessary funding to get important expansion projects done.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn