Alabama Considers Raising Gas Tax

Published May 17, 2017

Shortly after Alabama state Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) pulled his bill to increase the state’s gas tax by 6 cents over the next five years, state Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) proposed another bill that would raise the state’s motor-fuel tax.

Poole’s bill, House Bill 487, was removed from consideration before being considered by the full House of Representatives. HB 487 would have over seven years gradually increased the state’s gas tax from 18 cents per gallon to 27 cents per gallon.

When the bill was pulled on April 13, state Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) posted on Twitter saying it happened “presumably because they didn’t have the votes for passage.”

A week later, on April 20, Orr sponsored Senate Bill 386, which would allow county governments to ask voters to approve gas tax increases as high as 5 cents per gallon.

SB 386 was approved by the Alabama Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on April 25. It had not been voted on by the full Senate at press time.

Taxpayer Unrest

Patrick Gleason, director of state affairs with Americans for Tax Reform, says taxpayers want to see lawmakers use existing revenue wisely before giving the government more money.

“The public does not see proper prioritization of current revenues,” Gleason said. “After all of the taxes the state levies already, and all the things the state spends money on, the lawmakers who wanted to pile on with the gas tax increase to fund transportation claimed that it was because transportation was a priority for them.”

Alternatives to Consider

Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, says there are better ways to fund road construction than gas taxes.

“The first one is tolling, because that’s a stronger user-pay-user benefit system, and the next one is what we call mileage-based user fees, which is a charge for the exact section of roadway you’re using,” Feigenbaum said. “People pay gas taxes based on how fuel-efficient their vehicles are, but if you drive an older vehicle, your vehicle might not be very fuel-efficient and you might not be traveling very far. If you drive a Prius, for example, your vehicle is fuel-efficient and you could be traveling far and not be using much gas.”