MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey’s infrastructure package, including a 10-cent gas tax increase, unanimously passed through the House Transportation Utilities and Infrastructure Committee. It will now head to the House for a debate and possible vote.
The infrastructure package is made up of three bills include a fuel tax, electric vehicle fees and accountability measures to make sure the money goes toward infrastructure.
Rep. Bill Poole sponsors the infrastructure bills and spoke to the committee Thursday morning.
“Our infrastructure is deteriorating,” Poole said. “It is the absolute spine for every Alabamian in the state.”
Alabama’s gas tax has not been touched since 1992 and Poole listed his reasons as to why lawmakers gas tax increase.
In the last five years Poole said Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Kentucky have increased their motor fuel funding. He said fuel efficiency has increased dramatically, but our motor fuel revenue has decreased, noting that the cost of construction has increased.
“The federal government is not going to come fix our roads and bridges. So if that’s what we’re waiting on, it’s not going to happen,” Poole said.
Poole said this effort is just the start, and won’t fix all of our state’s infrastructure problems, but said it’s an important to take this step.
There were three opponents and 13 proponents of the bill that testified at the hearing Thursday.
Ben Harrison is the Limestone County Commissioner for District 4 and said he does not support the tax.
“There are very serious issues on how the monies are handled,” Harrison said. “Quite frankly I am at my wits end.”
He questions why the current formula concrete mixes are not lasting a long time to keep the infrastructure stable.
“My friends I’m going to tell you right now," he said. "We need to put this issue to bed.”
The Democrats on the committee signified they had not decided whether to support it, but wanted the entire House chamber to debate the bill.
Democratic Rep. Rolanda Hollis said the bill came up too quickly.
“It really has not given me the opportunity to reach out to my constituents like I would like to,” Hollis said.
There were several groups supporting the bill. David Cole with the Business Council of Alabama has been a supporter of the infrastructure bills.
“We have any opportunity to provide the next generation with a lot of opportunity down the road,” Cole said.
The Alabama Trucking Association, the Alabama Retail Association and the Alabama Farmers Federation told lawmakers they supported the measure.
“We strongly, strongly, support this legislation," said Frank Filgo with the Alabama Trucking Association.
Filgo said if they don’t have good roads, truckers can’t get to point A to point B on time.
Gas tax accountability measures
During the hearing, several groups wanted to make sure there were accountability measures.
Poole said the gas tax money would only be used for transportation funds. He said it would go into a separate account so the funds aren’t mingling with other piles of money. Poole said the money would be subject to audits.
“No more desk jobs with these dollars. No conference room tables,” he said. “None of that.”
Poole said it won’t be used for trucks, vehicles, or buildings. Governments receiving the money will provide a list of what they want to use this for and will later post a report that shows how they spent that money.
“We cannot ignore this issue,” he said. “The cost of doing nothing is not nothing. The cost of doing nothing is significant. It will cost us lives, it will cost us jobs, it will cost us opportunities.”
Sarah Stokes is with Southern Environmental Law Center. They support it but said ALDOT needs an objective criteria to determine which projects to work on. She said it would help take the politics out of it.
“It allows the citizens to understand why they’re working on those projects,” she said.
The tax would increase no more than one penny every two years.