North Alabama lawmakers “open-minded” about increasing gas tax

ATHENS, Ala - The Alabama state gas tax has not been increased since the early 1990s, but that could be changing soon. Lawmakers say a gas tax increase is up for discussion this legislative session as state leaders look for ways to fund road infrastructure. Area lawmakers provided their insight on the idea at a legislative reception Wednesday morning in Athens.

Have you driven on Interstate 565 lately? How about Highway 72? Lawmakers who represent those areas of North Alabama say traffic is a problem.

"And it's so aggravating," Rep. Danny Crawford (R- Athens) said.

They think traffic will only worsen as the area grows.

"You've got to have infrastructure to support that and right now we cannot handle the traffic that we have," Sen. Tom Butler (R-Decatur) said.

The gas tax funds infrastructure development. Right now, drivers are paying about 18 cents a gallon for gasoline and about 19 cents a gallon for diesel in state taxes.

"Nothing has been addressed in 25 years due to infrastructure. Well, to kind of put things in perspective, I was four years old," Rep. Parker Moore (R-Decatur) said.

Some lawmakers who have been against the gas tax in previous years are now having a change of heart.

"The last three years, I fought the gas tax," Rep. Crawford said he has been against raising the gas tax in lieu of finding money to shift in the general budget.

But after bringing in forensic auditors, he says the money just isn't there. "Now, I'm open-minded about looking at that knowing that in three years we haven't done anything."

Senator Arthur Orr says in the past several years half a billion dollars has been taken from the Alabama Department of Transportation and diverted to other government agencies.

"One of the things people tell me is, 'If you pass a gas tax by golly, make sure it stays for roads and bridges,'" Sen Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said.

These lawmakers say they are open to a gas tax increase. They haven't seen a bill yet- so would they support it? It's too early to tell.

Last year, the City of Huntsville received a little over $1 million from the state treasury from gas and license taxes. Madison has received about $236,000.
Mayor Tommy Battle told WHNT News 19 back in December that he would support a gas tax increase.

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