- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama lawmakers might soon debate an increase in the state’s gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge construction. If passed, it would be the first raise in the state gas tax since 1992.

The Alabama Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee will hold five meetings around the state in January to discuss the possibility and take the public’s temperature on the idea.

“We are going to have to make a decision on what we want …… If we want to widen some of these roads, fix bridges, do some major work, we have some revenue,” said Rep. Mac McCutcheon, chairman of the committee.

“We’ve got roads that were built for 20,000 cars a day that are carrying twice that today,” McCutcheon, R-Capshaw, said.

A bill introduced by McCutcheon in the most recent special session would have raised the tax by 5 cents per gallon and then adjust the tax up or down another 2 cents each year, depending on consumer prices and other factors. But the bill never got a floor vote.

McCutcheon said he is still working on the proposal for the session that begins Feb. 2. One change, he said, will be a cap on the amount of tax that can be added through indexing.

Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said the price of road construction and repairs has increased while improvements in automobile fuel efficiency have caused tax collections, which help pay for the work, to stagnate.

“We’re selling about the same amount of gas that we were in 1992,” Brasfield said.

The association has started a website and campaign called Drive Alabama to discuss the need for additional money for road maintenance and construction.

“A third of our bridges are more than 50 years old,” Brasfield said.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said he anticipates a legislative effort to at least index the gasoline tax so it will increase over time.

“I think the people accept a tax if it is earmarked specifically for a project like a road,” Bentley said.


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