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Gas tax increase clears first hurdle, House vote expected Friday

By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposed 10-cent gasoline tax increase cleared its first committee obstacle Thursday, but now heads to the full House of Representatives – where it could face a less certain road.

The House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee approved the legislation on a voice vote after a two-hour public hearing. The full House is expected to vote on the legislation Friday where preliminary vote counts suggested it could win approval by a slim margin.

Rep. Bill Poole, who is sponsoring the legislation, told committee members that Alabama’s current 18-cent gas tax has been unchanged since 1992, leaving the state without adequate funds to replace aging bridges and improve congested and dangerous roads.

“I don’t think it’s disputed in the state of Alabama our infrastructure is deteriorating at a rapid pace,” Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, told the committee Thursday morning. “The cost of doing nothing is significant. It’s very significant. It will cost us lives. It will cost us jobs.”

Ivey is proposing a 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase to fund road and bridge construction. The increase would be phased in over three years. The measure would also place an annual fee of $200 on electric vehicle and $100 on hybrid vehicles.
Poole said he was optimistic as the bill heads to a House vote.

Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, is chairman of the committee that advanced the bill Tuesday.

“It passed by voice vote without objection, which was a surprise. We have a lot of new, young members.  Stop and think: if it was your third day of being in the Alabama Legislature, your first committee meeting, and the first bill is a gas tax. How much worse can you get? So you feel for those folks, but they all stepped up to the plate and I’m proud of them,” Greer said.

However, some committee members said they were undecided how they would vote when the bill comes to the floor.

“Right now, I’m on the fence because I worry about our people without steady incomes. I worry about our less fortunate,” said Rep. Rolanda Hollis, a Democrat from Birmingham.

Hollis said a state lottery would be an alternate means of generating revenue.

Ivey on Tuesday called lawmakers into a special session focused on the gasoline tax and related legislation.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said that as of Wednesday, supporters believed they had 55 votes, enough to pass the measure in the 105-member House. McCutcheon said he had not seen an updated vote count on Thursday but believed that the bill was picking up support.

McCutcheon said he considered the money and investment in the state’s future.

“This is more than just a tax at the pump, this is an investment. When people pay their fuel at the pump, they are making the most important investment in this state they can make,” McCutcheon said.

During discussions, House Democrats have pressed Republican legislative leaders and Ivey’s office for a commitment toward some sort of Medicaid expansion, Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said. Alabama is one of 14 states that has not approved Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

“We got the conversation started,” England said.

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