Mayor Tommy Battle Pushes To Make Proposed Sales Tax Increase Permanent To Cover State Shortcomings

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — We’ve heard a lot about how the one-cent sales tax proposed to the city council would allow the city to match funds with the state on a series of joint road projects.

But Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says that’s a narrow reading of the tax, “It’s about a continuing revenue fund for roads.”

When you look at the whole plan for the city, there’s a lot more ink there.

Battle notes, “Beyond these seven projects, there are eighteen more projects that are realistic needs for this community.”

And the planning map, doused in red and blue plans for the future, helps explain why Battle doesn’t want a sunset clause to end the tax.

He notes the folks on the upper floors of city hall  have to position the city to grow and succeed for the long haul.

To the mayor, that means starting more road projects now, since it can take up to twelve years to complete one, “That means we’ve got to think in terms of, this is 2013, we’ve got to think terms of 2020, 2023 as to where those roads are going to be at that time, if we start building them today.”

Let’s talk Boeing recruitment for example.  The city recently reeled in a new facility, and they’re working to recruit facilities for the construction of the 777X.

It could bring new jobs and new people to the area, clogging up roads, making it difficult to recruit future employers.

Mayor Battle says creating a vision well in advance allows the city to stay ahead of those logjams.

He hopes the city council will see it the same way, “The one thing that we know is that if we don’t do this, the only road project that will happen in Madison County is the County Line Road extension where it connects to I-565.”

Though it is worth noting that all the road projects the city agreed to help the state with fall under the state’s responsibility.

Battle points out this scenario plays out more and more, “Mobile is now doing a 50/50 project out the ATRIP funding.  We’re doing a 50/50 project out of a set of funding.  I think they’ve found a way that they’re going to be asking a lot communities to be doing this, so that they can leverage their funding.”

Road projects have to be planned well in advance of execution.

Battle explains, “If we wait five years, that’s 2018.  And then we’re ten years before we ride on it.  In 2028 will be the next time we see some major improvements in our roads.  Do you think the community can wait for 2028 for major improvements on the roads?  We cant.”

So at Huntsville’s city hall they do what they can to plug the gap with a new sales tax.

But there’s still a belief here that state leaders should face their responsibility.

Battle points out, “There are state representatives or state senators, their representatives down in Montgomery, those are the ones they have to go to.  And then again, there is a governor’s race coming up in ’14, and they’ve got to get the governor’s attention on this.”

Because the city has ambitious road plans for the next few decades.

They’ve already agreed to pick up half the tab for the next round of projects,but public outrage or lack  thereof could change who the bill after that falls on.

You can find the map of agreed upon joint projects between the city and state here.  You can find the map of assessed needs here.

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