MAPLESVILLE, AL (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey, standing in a field in the rural Chilton County town of Maplesville Wednesday, was flanked by more than a dozen state legislators, local representatives and other supporters as she called on the legislature to raise the state’s fuel tax rate for the first time in nearly three decades.
The location for Ivey’s introduction of the Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan was not chosen at random. She pointed to a nearby bridge that’s being used beyond its lifespan that can’t carry heavy loads. She added that the road beyond it turns from pavement to dirt, which washes away when it rains.
Ivey says the state’s infrastructure is crumbling and believes a 10-cent per gallon tax increase on fuel purchases, implemented over a three-year period, is the solution. The phase-in would be for six cents in 2019, two cents in 2020, and two cents in 2021. Officials will use a price index that would raise the tax no more than one cent every two years.
The state’s current fuel tax rate stands at 18 cents per gallon of gas (and 19 on diesel), which Ivey said hasn’t changed, “not even a nickel,” since the early 1990s. Further hamstringing the state, the current rates are a flat excise tax which do not adjust for inflation or construction/maintenance costs, she said.
Alabama puts a heavy strain on its aging roadways and bridges. The governor cited a study that found vehicles put nearly 69 billion miles on them annually and the number is increasing. According to the University of Alabama’s Alabama Transportation Institute and Alabama Transportation Policy Research Center, traffic has increased 17 percent in the last 15 years.
“My Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan is a comprehensive approach to a glaring issue affecting citizens in every corner of the state,” Ivey said. “After 27 years of stagnation, adequate funding is imperative to fixing our many roads and bridges in dire need of repair. By increasing our investment in infrastructure, we are also making a direct investment in public safety, economic development, and the prosperity of our state.”
One of the main concerns residents have expresses is how to tell the money would actually go toward roads and bridges. Ivey says there will be strong accountability in the bill to make sure the money goes toward asphalt and concrete.
Republican leadership appears to be on board with the plan, but Democrats have not taken a stance because they say they haven’t see a bill yet.
The new revenue would be split between the state, county and local governments while a separate portion of the revenues would pay a bond to be issued to finance improvements to the ship channel of the Alabama State Docks.
State Rep. Bill Poole will sponsor the bill in the House while state Sen. Clyde Chambliss will champion the legislation in the Senate.