Jones: Legislature will address gas tax first

Published 2:42 am Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Alabama Legislature will convene for the first regular session of the quadrennial on Tuesday, and Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said he expects Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposed gasoline tax increase to be the first thing tackled.

“There is no question it’s the high priority issue,” Jones, who as chairman of the Rules Committee in the House, will have a role in how big that priority is. “I expect that it will be in play up front. The governor is clearly putting a lot of groundwork into securing passage. She is working all of the foundational groups that have any kind of connection with this bill. That’s the smart way to do it.

“It appears the whole state on board with it,” Jones said.

Gov. Kay Ivey officially announced her support of the proposed tax from a rural Chilton County bridge earlier this week. Yesterday, she stood on the steps of the Capitol with the mayors of Montgomery, Mobile, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa – two of whom opposed her in last year’s election – pledging their support. The Alabama Association of County Commissioners also participated in the Friday press conference.

Ivey’s office released copies of the proposed legislation late Friday afternoon. If passed, the act will raise the gas tax by 6 cents on Oct. 1, 2019; 2 cents on Oct. 1, 2020; and 2 cents on Oct. 1, 2021.

Jones said each additional cent is expected to generate $30 million in new revenue; thus, when fully implemented, the tax should generate $300 million per year for the state’s roads and bridges.

Of that, 66.7 percent will go to the state; 25 percent will go to counties; and 8.33 percent will go to municipalities. $10.2 million per year of the proceeds is earmarked for the Alabama State Docks through 2035.

The Alabama Department of Transportation estimates the bill, if approved, will cost the average Alabama driver $55 a year, or $4.58 per month, based on 12,000 annual miles and 22 miles per gallon.

There is speculation that the governor will call a special session once the regular session starts to focus the legislature on the proposed gas tax. In a special session, the legislature is limited to dealing only with issues included in the governor’s call.

Gov. Ivey also has announced a plan to build four new prisons in the state. Jones said that plan may be structured in a way that legislative approval isn’t required. 

“The governor has made it clear that prison construction is an issue,” Jones said. “But I don’t know anything about that other than what has been said in the media.”

Because it is the first year of the four-year legislative term,  Jones said its likely more bills will be dropped this year than any other in the four-year cycle.

“More will get passed because more are dropped,” Jones said.  “The incoming class is a strong group. There is good experience in the ranks, and common-sense thinkers. I am optimistic about working with the ones I have met.”