John Merrill on Mobile Bridge toll: ‘I’m not for putting an additional tax burden on the backs of people’
You can count Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill among those with reservations about supporting the proposed toll plan for the new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge project offered by the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Merrill, who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat up in 2020, told Huntsville radio WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that he thought there were alternatives for the proposal.
“I’m not for putting an additional tax burden on the backs of people who would use that to gain access to a worksite or family members or church or social gatherings,” Merrill said, “when we can find a way to pay that toll that they believe that needs to be charged in order to make sure that project can become a reality.”
“We’ve been able to do it before. We can do it again. We need to make sure we’re working with all of our public and private partners to make sure the basic viability of the project is where it needs to be before we start talking about these unbelievable numbers that are increasing the burdens on the backs of our people.”
Merrill pushed back against critics who had suggested the bridge not be built on the backs of taxpayers statewide, noting the amount of tax revenue generated by both Mobile and Baldwin Counties.
“You realize the enormous amount of resources that are generated in Baldwin and Mobile Counties through tax revenues, which is far, far superior to any other part of the state of Alabama,” he said. “So when people start talking about how tax burdens need to be shared, I’m sure that the people in Baldwin and Mobile Counties prefer to have all the ad Valorem taxes and all the sales taxes that are produced by people going to the beach just designated for and used for their part of the state each and every year instead of them sharing it with the entire state in the general fund or the education trust fund because they are able to supplement a lot of things that go on in Central Alabama and North Alabama because of what is generated in South Alabama. I’m quite sure they would like to keep all of those resources, too. So, when it comes to things like this, we all need to work together to come up with the best solution overall.”
Merrill urged the state to avoid building a “Taj Mahal-type project,” borrowing a phrase from former Gov. Fob James.