There is a snag in Alabama’s leadership’s desire to raise gas taxes
Even though no one discussed raising the gas tax in the 2018 election, it already seems like a done deal that there will be some kind of gas tax in the 2019 legislative session.
This makes sense for few reasons.
First, there has been no public debate about this matter in an election year, so it will appear to be a deceitful attempt to cram an unpopular item through. Where does your legislator stand on this? Where did his opponent stand? Second, legislators know there is a massive cushion between now and the next election, so if you are going to do something unpopular, do it now. Lastly, almost everyone agrees that there are real infrastructure needs in Alabama.
The real hangup on any potential legislation is how many different stakeholders there are involved in this issue.
Sure, all three of Alabama’s biggest dogs support a new gas tax: Governor Kay Ivey, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, but it almost seems like they are attempting to will a new gas tax bill into existence.
Last week, the Alabama County Commissioner Association met and its leader, Sonny Brasfield, sent the message that it was up to the county commissioners to drag this across the finish line, but it doesn’t appear the commissioners from the bigger counties in Alabama are enthusiastic about the proposal.
In an interview Monday with WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong made it clear that he and other larger counties in the state are not on board with the ACCA’s push, saying there are “67 counties in Alabama, most of them are wanting to do anything to take money out of other counties,” adding they “are outnumbered.”
Strong cited the size of his county, arguing if it were a city, it would be the fifth largest in the state. He pointed out that most of these county commissioners “can’t even fathom what we deal with” because “a lot of the counties in Alabama don’t even have 50,000 people in them” while each Madison County Commissioner represents that many.
The frustration from the larger counties is going to work its way into the legislative process because you are not going to see legislators who want to go against local leaders who are sounding the alarm about new taxes being collected and being sent elsewhere.
The pro-gas tax increase side has one massive advantage, though. Chairman Strong acknowledged it, saying, “[T]he needs for our roads here are great but the big thing is, I think you’ve got to, if you want to increase something you’ve gotta go to the people and say how it’s going to be spent.”
Obviously, there is going to have to be some sort of spending plan put in place on any new gas tax, but for every caveat you create to bring someone on board, you risk losing support elsewhere. This will not be a “clean” bill or process — this will be messy.