Gov. Bentley favors statewide gas tax for road and bridge improvements



condensed from al.com, and from local interviews by Ron Gholson

Gov. Robert Bentley told business and political leaders at a meeting in Gulf Shores Nov. 6 that he believes legislators in Montgomery may pass an increase in the state’s gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge improvements in the state.

A 5-cent gasoline tax measure approved by a House committee in August would have produced $70 million in fiscal year 2016, about $600,000 of which would have come to Blount County. But the measure stalled without coming to a vote.

In comments on prospects for a renewed push on the measure, Bentley said he thinks it will come up in the next legislative session, that he thinks it has a chance to pass and that he is for it. He also said he thinks people are willing to pay for better roads, and that lawmakers may approve the tax increase, as long as the proceeds are designated for roads and bridges.

The Blount Countian polled members of the Blount County Commission asking for their views on the legislation, if it is introduced in the next session.

Commission Chairman
Chris Green

Q: Do you favor a statewide gasoline tax increase?

A: I favor a revenue source to help improve the county’s roads and bridges. It’s too early to tell what the details of any plan the Legislature might pass might be. While I favor a statewide measure generally, we probably need a combination of state and local measures to adequately upgrade and maintain our roads and bridges to the standards citizens want and expect.

Q: Would you encourage the county legislative delegation to support a statewide gasoline tax increase?

A: I would certainly encourage our delegation to support some measure to provide us more revenue to improve our county roads.

Q: What would be Blount County’s approximate allocation from such a tax?

A: That would depend on how the distribution between the state portion and the counties’ portion is negotiated and written into the legislation. In the gasoline tax measure that was proposed in the last session but not passed, Blount County’s part would have been more than $600,000 annually.

Q: How soon would the county receive the money if the legislation passes?

A: Again, it’s hard to say without actually reading the language of the act as it passed.

District 1 Commissioner
Allen Armstrong

Q: Do you favor a statewide gasoline tax increase?

A: No. There’s still fat in ALDOT’s (Alabama Department of Transportation) budget that’s gotta be trimmed. Every time the Legislature tries to cut waste from the state budget, those bureaucrats in the state departments find a way to spend the savings. Until we figure out a way to eliminate waste completely, we don’t need to be asking for any more money from taxpayers.

Q: Then, you would not encourage the county legislative delegation to support a statewide gasoline tax increase if it is proposed again this year?

A: No.

District 3 Commissioner
Dean Calvert

Q: Do you favor a statewide gasoline tax increase?

A: Yes, I do. It’s almost like a gift. Looking at it another way, it’s like grant money. Because it’s statewide, we get a lot more back than we pay in. I would rather see a statewide gasoline tax than a local tax. It won’t affect us as much locally, and it especially will have a lesser effect on our local economy. But we still get the benefit of more money for roads.

Q: Would you encourage the county legislative delegation to support a statewide gasoline tax increase?

A: Yes. I would like for the commission to send a resolution to the delegation stating we support it. It would state our reason as being to meet the needs of the people they expect us to meet, and because of the tremendous amount of money it’s going to take, we’re going to have to have a new revenue source to meet it.

Q: What would be Blount County’s allocation from such a tax?

A: I’m not sure what the Legislature would do this time, but the amount we would’ve gotten from the gasoline tax proposal in the last session was something over $600,000.

Q: How soon would the county receive the money if the legislation passes?

A: Not immediately, but I would think maybe within a year, allowing time to set up all the procedures and mechanisms to gather and disperse it.

District 2 Commissioner
Carthal Self

Q: Do you favor a statewide gasoline tax increase?

A: No. I’m taxed enough and the people are taxed enough. Government is going to have to become more efficient in using what we have and doing the very best we can with taxes that are already being paid. That’s what I’m doing now every day on the job. We can’t ask taxpayers to keep on giving. The way things are now, they just don’t have it to give.

Q: Then, you would not encourage the county legislative delegation to support the statewide gasoline tax increase if it is proposed again this year?

A: No. I do not support any new taxes at any level – local, state, or federal.

District 4 Commissioner
Gary Stricklin

Could not be reached for comment.