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Skip Tucker: Attempted Roadkill

By SKIP TUCKER, Alabama Daily News Featured Columnist

When I read in Alabama Daily News that the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee voted to officially oppose the gas tax, visions of potholes swam before my eyes to the point that I clutched a bottle of rum to ward off seasickness.

It’s a sweepingly horrible decision.

I was hammered by an eerie evil Deja Vu and a sense of impending doom for business expansion, school buses and first responders.

Apparently, a majority of the 400 members of the Executive Committee concurrently drove though some kind of alien mind-death ray that destroyed brain cells and  took with it the outfit’s chance of being relevant.

It is the worst decision by a state political executive committee since the 1986 Alabama Democratic Party Executive Committee destroyed itself, with nil chance of resuscitation, by defenestrating a half-million voters and stealing the governorship race from Charlie Graddick. The Dems did it by committing autoerotic asphyxiation. They were out of touch. It was the beginning of the end of that party.

Same thing here. Remember that the resolution opposing the gas tax was sponsored by a gentleman, Tom Fredricks of Decatur, who ran for state house – twice – on the mantle of opposing the gas tax – twice – and lost to one more open minded – twice.

Not only did the ALGOP pass a resolution opposing any gas tax of any kind, they are now on record opposing it even should the Legislature reduce an existing tax so there would be no net increase in overall taxes. Even the staunchly conservative Alabama Policy Institute is open to the idea of raising the gas tax. They have suggested lowering other taxes, such as the sales tax on groceries, at the same time. But that more measured approach was apparently a bridge too far for the ALGOP.

As a conservative and a realist who has seen a big truck’s worth of bad political choices and carwrecks, it bothered me to witness such foolishness.

Then I snapped out of it. Because the odds of the tax passing anyway, in spite of the committee’s objection, is a probability of 123 trillion to 1. It will pass.

Here’s why:

  • The Gavel. Gov. Kay Ivey, Lt. Gov. Ainsworth, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh are the most powerful beings in state politics. The legislative session looms and they decide who gets what, which proposed legislation gets to the floor for debate, and who gets appointed to the juicy committees. Legislators are always to vote their districts and vote their conscience, but you can be assured that the leaders who control the goodies will be keeping tabs.
  • Most Democrats in our legislature will eventually support the tax so long as they get enough guarantees for their districts.
  • Chits are being called in, as we speak. Tradeoff in politics is standard operating procedure. In this case, its facility is reaching rarefied height. Favors work.
  • Most polling numbers I have seen that I consider reliable reflect that as of now, even before the campaign begins for the gas tax, there is an even split among voters. Just wait until the artillery opens up.

The thing most puzzling about this flight of fancy by the Republican State Executive Committee is that, though I’ve been a student of politics for more decades than I wish to disclose, I cannot fathom a single solid reason for it.

They think I guess that they stake a claim for re-election to their committee posts by being able to say “I opposed the tax.”

It’s going to pass anyway. And the ring leader Republicans opposing it can scream it at re-election to the heavens while their opponents point to new bridges and better roads in the next district and wonder why there are none in theirs.

Some facts:

  • Gov. Ivey’s proposed tax is ten cents a gallon. Most of us spend more money per month on frivolities.  Reliable research suggests that bad state roads cost the average driver more than $500 a year.
  • Some 30 percent of our roads are in woeful condition. Hundreds of our bridges are unsound and load limits posted. Some school buses must go far out of their way to safely get to students.
  • Alabama has one of the lowest gas taxes in the nation lowest gas taxes in the nation. The lowest is in Alaska, 14.65 cents. There’s a reality show about truckers driving horrible roads in Alaska.
  • Among the highest are Pennsylvania at 58.7 cents, California at 54.36 and Washington DC, 48.4.
  • Gov. Ivey believes President Trump will make up to a trillion dollars available for national infrastructure. Unless we come up matching funds – a small amount of money relatively speaking – we won’t get a fair share of those trillions. It’s a one-shot deal. The only way to get the matching funds is through the gas tax.

Opposition by the State Republican Executive Committee is worse than senseless.

Snap out of it, eh.

Some of my earliest memories include trips from Carbon Hill to Birmingham on US 78. It was a two-hour trip on a two-lane road so twisty a chicken snake couldn’t run it. It was the truck route to Memphis and a moment’s distraction was worth your life.

Now it’s an easy 40-minute drive on The 22, smooth as peach fuzz.

Bad roads mean death. That’s a fact.

(Next week: Politics, Politics, Politics.)

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