Gas tax would help locally

Published 12:26 am Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Legislature expected to consider 6-to-8-cent per gallon tax

The Alabama Legislature is expected to consider a new gasoline tax when it convenes in March, and Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White said that would be a good thing for local infrastructure.

“It has been about 25 years since we have had an increase,” White said. “Covington County definitely has a great need for it.”

The state’s gasoline tax is per gallon, which means that proceeds of the tax have shrunk as vehicles have become more energy efficient. The 18-cents-per-gallon tax has not been changed since 1992, and is among the lowest in the nation, according to comparisons from the American Petroleum Institute.

A one-cent per gallon statewide tax would generate approximately $30 million annually. News coverage of the issue indicate that proponents plan to ask for a 6- or 8-cent increase, which would generate $180 million to $240 million annually.

White said that the percentage would be distributed throughout the counties in Alabama on a fair need basis.

“The need is definitely shared throughout all of the counties in Alabama,” White said. “Legislators have come up with a formula that will decide who gets what on a fair need basis.”

White said that the last time the legislature considered raising the gas tax, it did not happen.

“About two or three years ago legislation tried to raise the gas tax,” White said. “But they could not come up with a solution.”

He said that several counties in the state are in dire need for a gas tax increase.

In 2017, when gas tax legislation was proposed, the county held a town hall meeting to discuss the benefits. That proposal would have used a 3-cent-per-gallon tax to repay a $1.2 billion bond issue for infrastructure improvements, and generated $13.2 million in one-time money for Covington County. There was no local opposition in the town hall meeting, but the proposal was not brought to the floor of the legislature for a vote.

White said if a gas tax is proposed this year, he expects more local town hall meetings.

“I think the commission will definitely hold town hall meetings if this goes forward,” White said. “We will discuss rates and what our proposals will be and if legislation moves forward then we will hold town hall meetings to generate as much support for it as we can.”

The legislature will convene today in its organizational session following the 2018 election. The session can last up to 10 days. The regular session begins in March.