Opinion: Jackpot for roads? Dire state of roads show government must raise gasoline taxes or consider alternative income

Scott Shelton

Staff Writer

Gov. Kay Ivey announced her infrastructure plan, ahead of the Alabama State Legislature’s next session. This plan includes raising the state’s tax on gasoline.

This topic will be one of the biggest issues facing the legislature this session, and it’s already seeing pushback from Republicans in the state.  

The word tax alone can elicit a polarizing response among Alabama’s electorate.

In our conservative state, raising taxes is typically unpopular among voters.

Sometimes the thought of raising taxes even gets certain newspaper editors to call on the Ku Klux Klan to prevent such actions. 

But this proposed gas tax needs to be put in perspective. 

Currently gas tax in Alabama is 18 cents per gallon, and has been so since 1992. 

Cars have become more fuel-efficient since then, which means the gas tax at its current rate has somewhat lost its effectiveness through the years.

Our state has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country, so an incremental raise over the next few years could be beneficial to the state.

Revenue acquired would go toward improving infrastructure, which our state desperately needs to do.

According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, Alabama’s deficient roads cost Alabama drivers about $5.3 billion per year. 

The  same report states that roads in cities like Florence and Tuscaloosa are suffering.

More than 50 percent of the roads in both these cities are in poor or mediocre condition, comparing to TRIP’s standards.

Montgomery reflects the state’s average of 30 percent of roads being in fair or poor conditions. 

TRIP reports that the state’s roads cost the average Alabama driver $507 annually in vehicle operating costs, and they cost the state as a whole about $2 billion.

Taxes seem like a scary thing, but this should be seen more as an investment to help our infrastructure.

And sometimes, having nicer things such as better roads and bridges, requires a small increase in taxes.

To states outside the South, we’re seen as a laughingstock, and the U.N. has compared Alabama’s conditions to that of a third-world country.

Our politicians don’t always seem like they care to combat those notions.

Conflict arises when state’s politicians typically campaign on not raising taxes but make promises to fix Alabama’s problems. 

Some of our politicians, including Ivey and six state legislators, have gone as far as signing a pledge with Americans for Tax Reform, saying they won’t raise any taxes.

Unfortunately, they can’t have their cake and eat it, too.

Legislators who don’t want a tax increase should look at other options such as a lottery — something that’s been discussed by the legislature for two decades now.

A lottery could be a way to raise revenue without essentially forcing the taxpayers to pay; it would be at their discretion.

Whether it’s a tax or lottery for infrastructure, our state needs a serious discussion on how to make our state better. 

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