SUMTER COUNTY, Ala. (WTOK) - Alabama lawmakers could debate a possible gasoline tax increase to fix state roadways when they resume their legislative session in March. The idea remains a priority, but how much will this affect drivers at the pump?
Officials say the return on investment would be more worth the cost.
“We anticipate that when the legislature goes into session March 5th, that this will be an early item that they address. And hopefully this year we will see some activity on this issue. Again, for the first time since 1992 and we can hopefully start putting plans in place in every corner of the state to invest in our infrastructure,” said Jim Page, president and CEO of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce.
In the governor's inaugural speech, Kay Ivey called for more investment in state roads and bridges. While no specifics were released, a proposed gas tax hike will go before lawmakers to help fund future infrastructure projects.
The state's gas tax is currently 18 cents a gallon, which has been unchanged for 27 years.
"Construction costs have more than doubled, but cars also get more miles to the gallon. They're more fuel efficient. So that formula is not sustainable where costs are increasing, but revenues are decreasing. And that's why we have to address it," said Page.
Page says a nominal increase would be pivotal for rural communities, like the state's Black Belt, that lack the tax base to invest in roads and bridges.
"Too many people die on our roadways because of faulty road conditions. In fact, in rural communities, you're twice as likely to end up in a traffic accident because of faulty roadways," says Page.
He says not only is this a public safety concern, but this is also fundamental to economic development.
"In Alabama, there are 17 counties that don't have four-lane access to an interstate highway, so when it comes to being in competition for economic development projects, they're at a serious disadvantage. That's why we need to invest," says Page.
Some drivers told us off-camera they are against raising the gas tax. A proposal in 2017 failed to gain enough support for a vote on the House floor.
Others say they wouldn't mind paying a few extra cents.
"The wear and tear on our cars each and every day, we pay for our vehicles and we use our vehicles on a daily basis, so we want to be traveling on good roads that are safe. None that are going to cause our tires to blow out or cause us to have a wreck or accident so I wouldn't mind paying even five, six or seven cents more," said Melanie Nichols.
Page says Alabama’s current gas tax is among the lowest in the nation.