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Commission supports gas tax increase

The Chambers County Commission has executed a resolution officially stating its support for an increase in Alabama’s gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to be used for improvements to roads and bridges statewide.

The resolution comes a month ahead of the 2019 regular season for state legislators. The resolution was sent off by the commission in response to a growing desire for infrastructure improvements throughout Alabama.

“Improving our infrastructure is more than an investment in our roads and bridges, it’s an investment in economic development, public safety and local communities,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in her inaugural address earlier this year. “It has been nearly three decades since we last made any changes to our current funding, and the challenge has grown with the passing of time. Now is the time to increase our investment in infrastructure – now is the time to solve this problem.”

The commission discussed how the increase in gas taxes could be what the state needs to start solving its infrastructure problem.

“All of the surrounding states around us have already increased their gas taxes, and they are building their own infrastructure,” said Commissioner Sam Bradford. “If we are going to keep up with other states, then we have to have this gas tax.”

As of July of 2018, the gas tax in Alabama was just under $0.21, according to the American Petroleum Institute, and Commission Chair David Eastridge reminded the commission that the state tax had not been changed since 1992. While the exact increase — or an increase at all — will not be determined until the state legislators meet next month, Bradford said that it could be anywhere from $0.02 to $0.12.

The resolution executed by the commission states that the Association of County Commissions of Alabama and the Association of County Engineers of Alabama recently completed a statewide study showing the lack of funding for infrastructure. While the complete data set for that study is not yet available, the resolution did include the fact that Alabama’s county roads are being resurfaced on a 114-year cycle.

“It is about time for us to come up to date,” said Commissioner Charlie Williams. “Our gas prices are maybe 10 to 15 percent less than Georgia. If you want to see the difference in roads just ride through Chambers County and then ride through Troup County. It’s like night and day. We have got to do something better, and this is one of the ways that we can.”

County Engineer Josh Harvill explained that the language used in the resolution specifically supports the gas tax to be used for roads and bridges. Chambers County officials do not want extra funding for equipment or employees, just the ability to maintain the over 400 miles of county roads.

“The good thing about [the proposed increase] is only people that would be paying for it are those who drive cars,” Williams said. “If you don’t drive a car, it doesn’t affect you.”