State Senator Chris Elliott proposes ‘dollar-for-dollar’ state tax credit on tolls for Mobile Bay bridge — ‘We have paid enough’
Every day provides a new chapter for the saga of the new Mobile Bay Bridge toll controversy. The one trend that appears to be certain is the opposition to the toll is growing by the day.
With that as a reality, many of the elected officials around Alabama are taking notice and recognizing the toxicity of the politics of the toll. Although he is not new to the issue, State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) unveiled his effort at legislation that would calm the political waters of the proposed $3-6 toll for the $2.1 billion project.
During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “Midday Mobile,” Elliott explained how his Senate Bill 4 would create a tax credit for state income taxpayers that would provide a “dollar-for-dollar” return on tolls.
“Congressman Byrne has put out there he thinks GOMESA [Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act] needs to be used,” Elliott said. “I understand. [Alabama Department of Transportation Director John] Cooper said you’re going to have trouble bonding the GOMESA money. He’s not wrong either. And that’s where you stop, and you say, ‘OK, it’s time to think about this critically.’ It’s time to figure out how can — instead of saying, ‘no, no, no,’ how do we get this to really make meaningful change instead of saying ‘can’t’ all the time? And that’s what Senate Bill 4 does. Senate Bill 4 provides aa dollar-for-dollar tax credit for anybody that goes across that bridge and has to pay a toll. That means they can get that money back from the state at the end of the year. That means they can take it off their taxes, dollar for dollar, or if the amount you spend on the toll exceeds your tax liability, you get that money back in cash at the end of the year. It uses the GOMESA funding in order to do that.”
Elliott said the check would come from the State of Alabama. “Midday Mobile” host Sean Sullivan expressed his skepticism that the legislature would go along with it, to which Elliott said his proposal would come at no expense to them.
“Here’s the good answer: It’s not hurting them, right?” he replied. “We’re using GOMESA money to do it, and we’ll use it on an annual basis as opposed to trying to put that money upfront on the project, which is what Director Cooper said you’re going to have a hard time bonding that money. And you got an interest expense associated with that. So my argument to my fellow legislators, many of whom I’ve obviously already talked to, is, ‘Guys, that’s our money. That’s our money. And what we want to do is we want to spend it to effectively reduce the toll to zero on locals.’ And again, trying to get around that local provision that FHWA has that says you can’t treat people from Alabama differently than you treat folks from Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana — you can’t talk about frequent user, but you can’t talk about where they live.”
“My answer to that is — fine, but you don’t get to govern the Alabama tax code,” Elliott continued. “We do. So, I’m going to work around that and say if you file an Alabama tax return, then you’re going to be able to claim a credit, a dollar-for-dollar credit for every toll dollar you spend.”
“The folks in Mobile County and Baldwin County, Coastal Alabama — we have paid enough. We have paid enough. Our economy generates a disproportionate amount of total state revenue. Our gas tax is higher than it is anywhere else. We have paid enough, and we need to make sure that our folks down here are not burdened with any more tax, which is essentially what this toll is than they already have been. And that is exactly what Senate Bill 4 will do.”