State Sen Cam Ward: Infrastructure, lottery, Medicaid expansion, rural health care among legislative ‘priorities’
On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) signaled that addressing infrastructure would be a primary focus of next year’s legislative session.
Ward told APTV’s Don Dailey that the lottery, Medicaid expansion and addressing rural health care were also among the legislature’s priorities, but indicated that infrastructure was at the top of the list.
At the center of the infrastructure discussion is the state’s gasoline tax, according to Ward.
“If you’re on I-65 North in my district any time between June, July and August, I can tell you roads are hands down the biggest issue our state faces,” Ward said. “I think you’ll see roads and infrastructure. I think a lottery will come back up. There’s always the discussion on Medicaid expansion. And of course, there’s the rural health care needs, too. So, I think all of those will be big. However, I think if you had to pinpoint one issue, Don – it’s going to be infrastructure, roads.”
The Shelby County Republican suggested an adjustment to the gas tax was long overdue given it had not been changed since 1992.
“If you had the same amount of the revenue coming in that you had today, yet you have more fuel-efficient cars, and you have more people driving on the roads, but you have the same amount of revenue coming in – there’s no way you can improve and widen I-65 Montgomery to Birmingham if you have the same amount of money you had in 1992. It’s not going to work. You’re going to have to have more revenue to pay for it. If you want better roads, safer bridges – you will have to have more money to pay for it.”
The gas tax is at the center of the infrastructure discussion and while raising taxes may not be popular, Ward urged his colleagues to do what they thought would “help the state best.”
“[I] do think people shouldn’t be as scared about it,” he added. “Do what’s right. Do what you think is going to help the state best. And you know what? At the end of the day, it’ll work out.”
Dailey raised the issue of the legislature addressing the state’s general fund, to which Ward expressed his confidence in the new leadership’s ability to resolve.
“You’ll have tough decisions, but also I think you got some new leadership there that’s going to help and I think we can get it done. Mental health, prison and of course Medicaid are always driving that decision,” Ward replied.