HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Alabama Legislature Tuesday passed the 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike – to be phased-in over three years – with strong support from business groups and leaders in the House and Senate.
However, an opposition group reported Tuesday morning, its poll shows most Alabamians oppose the measure.
On Tuesday, that opposition wasn’t part of the signing ceremony with Gov. Kay Ivey.
Madison County-based House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said he’s been working on the gas tax issue for five years, and Tuesday was a big day.
“And one of the things that had me so involved in this was the fact that I saw the direct connection with good infrastructure and economic growth, which produces a good quality of life for the people that live in this state,” McCutcheon said. "We are going to make sure we are accountable to the people of Alabama. We are going to make sure we do what we should do to move this state forward... This will move us forward for our children's sake. Something historic was done today in Alabama and I hope that we will remember this for years and years to come."
Ivey signed the measure into law, completing a dizzying week, from the bill’s introduction to final passage. She praised the bipartisan support the bill received.
“What the members of the Alabama Legislature have done today is to improve Alabama's infrastructure for generations to come,” Ivey said. "Today and over the last several days, I have been so proud to watch the Legislature at its finest hour of operation. Legislators from different parties, from different parts of the state, have come together not to make an easy decision but to make a bold statement that they are 'all in' in investing in Alabama's future."
Lawmakers want even those who do not like the idea of a new tax to hear their plea for understanding.
"I want to make a special plea to the people at home. I ask everyone to look at the bill, look at the facts, look at the stats. If you will do those things, I will promise the citizens of this state you will applaud this Legislature for what it has done," said Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Senate President Pro Tempore.
"You will see more bipartisan efforts in us addressing the tough issues of this state as we move forward," added Rep. Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), House Minority Leader.
"This effort was necessary. It is needed. It is critical to the future of this state, and it is justified. It is time that this state invest in our infrastructure. It is the spine of our economy and our everyday lives. It is critical to our future. To our prosperity," said Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), the bill's sponsor in the House of Representatives.
The 10-cent per gallon hike phases in over three years. By 2022, it is expected to raise $323 million annually for road and bridge improvements.
Two-thirds of the revenue goes to ALDOT for infrastructure improvement, preservation, and maintenance projects. It can't be used for salaries, buildings not connected to transportation, or employee benefits. 25% of it goes to counties, with 45% of that being equal among them and the other 55% of that based on population projections provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
We asked ALDOT whether I-565 was a priority with the new revenue. Spokesman Tony Harris said the department continues to gauge its priorities. He added that 565 was already identified as a priority project for its congestion level, but no decisions have been made for what projects will advance first. A decision will be made this year or early next year on what to do with the new revenue.
The tax hike led by Alabama’s Republican governor and GOP majorities in the House and Senate marks a philosophical departure for Alabama Republicans, who closely identify with a low-tax agenda.
Not everybody’s happy about the decision. The Alabama Republican Party executive committee opposed the measure.
Executive committee member Don Wallace of Northport helped form the Committee to Stop the Gas Tax. They started a month ago, he said.
“I don’t think philosophically we have changed,” Wallace told WHNT News 19 Tuesday. “We’ve just got a disconnect between Republican leadership and significant numbers of legislators and the public.”
A poll the group commissioned and released Tuesday morning found 78-percent of those polled said Alabama should spend more money on roads and bridges but should use the state trust fund and current transportation money.
The poll found 85-percent of those surveyed opposed house approval of the bill and 71-percent believe Gov. Ivey concealed her plan to raise taxes.
The group said they will make sure Alabama voters will be reminded every Oct. 1 over the next three years about the tax hike.
AL.com reported Tuesday that Gov. Ivey told WSFA in an interview last week new legislative candidates were told last year about the plan to boost the gas tax. She said they were vetted by party leaders and, if they planned to oppose it, they were not encouraged to run.
Updated at 10:35 p.m. to correct headline.
WHNT News 19's Kristin Conner contributed to this story.