State House Majority Ldr Ledbetter urges county commissioners to make gas tax hike not about increase, but keeping ‘kids safe’
MONTGOMERY — It’s a near certainty that when the Alabama legislature convenes next year, an effort to raise the state’s gasoline tax will be front and center.
An adjustment to the tax, which was last done in 1992, is seen as a means to finance infrastructure needs across the state of Alabama, and the start of a new quadrennium is the most politically opportune time to do so.
In a speech to the attendees at a conference hosted by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday, State House of Representatives Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter warned of the consequences of not addressing infrastructure concerns.
“I truly believe if we do not fix our infrastructure – if we do not fix our roads and our bridges, the growth of our economy will come to a halt,” Ledbetter said. “When you’ve got the CEO of Mercedes-Benz stands up and says to me, ‘If you do not fix your infrastructure, we’re not going to expand. We can no longer get our product from Tuscaloosa to Mobile Bay.’”
“How many have been on I-10 lately?” he added. “That’s an adventure as well. Or [Interstate] 65 during holiday traffic, or [Interstates] 59 or 459, or in Huntsville? The road to our economy dictates that we do something about our infrastructure.”
On the gas tax, Ledbetter acknowledged he was “preaching to the choir” about the state’s infrastructure deficiencies given it was an audience comprised mainly of the state’s county commissioners. However, he encouraged those in attendance to take a proactive approach in promoting a proposal.
“The thing we’re asking you to do is preach to your choir,” Ledbetter said. “Go back to your district, let the people know why we need to have infrastructure improved in Alabama.”
Ledbetter said in his home county of DeKalb with a population of 70,000, school buses were required to travel an additional 30,000 miles to avoid “bad bridges.”
“The thing about it is, when we talk to our constituents about our infrastructure – it’s not about a tax increase,” he explained. “If you’re saying we’re going to have a tax increase on gasoline, you’re going about it the wrong way. You need to tell people we’re doing this to keep our kids safe, so they don’t have to travel an additional 30,000 miles a year on school buses. We’re doing it to keep our family safer, so they don’t hit a pothole on a county road and wind up in a ditch somewhere.”
Ledbetter added that more than half of all gasoline bought in the state was not purchased by Alabamians, meaning the bulk of the burden of the tax would not necessarily be carried by the people of Alabama.