By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Drivers in Alabama would see a 10-cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax to fund road and bridge construction, under legislation approved Friday by the state House of Representatives.
House members passed the bill 83-20, handing a victory to Gov. Kay Ivey who called lawmakers into special session to consider the tax increase. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.
“What a victory the House has delivered today for the people of Alabama,” Ivey said after the House approval. Ivey said the boost in infrastructure funding is “desperately” needed to keep roads and bridges safe and alleviate traffic congestion.
Ivey is proposing a 10-cent a gallon gas tax increase that would be phased in over three years. The state tax would then be adjusted up or down with the National Highway Construction Cost Index and could increase up to a penny every two years.
The proposal also would place an annual $200 fee on electric vehicles and a $100 annual fee on hybrid vehicles.
Rep. Bill Poole, who is sponsoring the legislation, said Alabama’s current gas tax has been unchanged since 1992.
“Our citizens know we have to do something to address our infrastructure,” said Poole, a Tuscaloosa Republican.
Although supporters had been optimistic that the bill would win approval, the proposal pitted the Republican governor against some members of her own party. The executive committee of the Alabama Republican Party approved a resolution opposing the tax increase.
Some lawmakers said their constituents opposed the increase and others said there were alternative ways of obtaining money, such as a state lottery.
“I intend to be the voice of the people for House District 3. They are overwhelmingly opposed,” said Rep. Andrew Sorrell, a Republican from Muscle Shoals.
Rep. Kerry Rich, a Republican from Guntersville, said he was voting yes because he said the state “desperately” needs improved infrastructure.
“I want to use my time here to make a difference in the lives of the people for good,” Rich said.
The bill passed with bipartisan report. Eighteen of the 20 no votes were from Republicans.
There were multiple unsuccessful attempts to amend the bill during the five hours of debate. Rep. John Rogers, a Birmingham Democrat, proposed allowing the funding to be used for mass transit instead of only road and bridge construction. Another amendment would have stripped the ability to adjust the tax upward in future years without another vote of the Alabama Legislature. Both ideas were tabled.
The tax increase would be phased over three years beginning on Aug. 31 of this year. The tax would rise by 6 cents in 2019 and an additional 2 cents in 2020 and 2021. The bill also sets aside $11.7 million of the revenue to be used for a bond issue for improvements at the Port of Mobile.
During negotiations on the bill, House Democrats met with Ivey on issues they want to see addressed, including Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Ivey said she made a commitment to the minority caucus that “after we get the infrastructure bill tended to and set aside” that she would convene regular meetings with them and GOP leadership.
Asked if she was open to Medicaid expansion, Ivey replied that, “I’m open to good ideas to move our state forward.”
The Alabama Senate is expected to debate the bill next week.
Rep. Connie Rowe, R- Jasper, voted for the bill and said the improvements to the port of Mobile would significantly help her district.
“I’m from a deep coal region, so the port exports a lot of the coal coming from my district,” Rowe said.
“People in my district are concerned about coal and the work that they do with it and those who use it in their homes, so the dredging and widening of the port is very important issue that deals with my constituents.”
The bill dedicates about $11.7 million a year in gas tax revenue to improvements and expansions at the Port of Mobile. The state money would be used to match even more federal dollars being used to widen and deepen the shipping channel to expand port capacity.
“I don’t think the bill is perfect, but I do think it is a well thought out and as good of a negotiated option that we have before us at this time,” Rowe said. “I would rather be a part of something good and considerable than not.”
How they voted
Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville: Yes
Rep. Louise Alexander, D-Bessemer: Yes
Rep. Wes Allen, R- Troy: Yes
Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton: Yes
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison: Yes
Rep Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City: Yes
Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Birmingham: Yes
Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile: Yes
Rep. K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville
Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollingers Island: Yes
Rep. Jim Carns, R-Birmingham: No
Rep. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma: Yes
Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile: Yes
Rep. Steve Clouse: R-Ozark: Yes
Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham: Yes
Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur: Yes
Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens: Yes
Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville: Yes
Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville: No
Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds: Yes
Rep. Barbara Drummond: D-Mobile: Yes
Rep. Brett Easterbrook, R-Fruitdale: Yes
Rep. Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana: Yes
Rep: Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa: Yes
Rep. Tracey Estes, R-Winfield: Yes
Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla: No
Rep. David Faulkner, R-Vestavia: Yes
Rep. Joe Foust, R-Fairhope: Yes
Rep. Bob Fincher, R-Woodland: No
Rep. Barry Forte, D-Eufaula: Yes
Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo: No
Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville: Yes
Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile: Yes
Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham: Yes
Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika: Yes
Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville: Yes
Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Newville: Yes
Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville: Yes
Rep. Tommy Hanes, R-Scottsboro: No
Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Cullman: No
Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery: Yes
Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody: Yes
Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham: Yes
Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka: No
Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro: Yes
Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford: Yes
Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Montgomery: Yes
Rep. Gil Isbell, R- Gadsden: Yes
Rep. Thomas Jackson, R-Thomasville
Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga: No
Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia: Yes
Rep. Sam Jones, R-Mobile: Yes
Rep. Jamie Kiel, R- Russellville: No
Rep. Wes Kitchens, R-Arab: Yes
Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville: Yes
Rep. Nathan Ledbetter, R-Rainsville: Yes
Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan: Yes
Rep. Craig Lipscomb, R-Gasden: Yes
Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn: Yes
Rep. Rhett Marques, R-Enterprise: Yes
Rep. Jimmy Martin, R-Clanton: Yes
Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston: Yes
Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery: Yes
Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Bay Minette: Yes
Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham: No
Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmigham: No
Rep. Parker Moore, R- Decatur: Not voting, not present
Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery: Yes
Rep. Becky Nordgren, R- Gadsden: Yes
Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville: Yes
Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Green Hill: Yes
Rep. Dimitri Polizoz, R-Montgomery: Yes
Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa: Yes
Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile: Yes
Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham: Yes
Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville: Yes
Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville: Yes
Rep. Proncey Robertson, R-Mount Hope: Yes
Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham: No
Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper: Yes
Rep. Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville: Yes
Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield: Yes
Rep. Chris Sells, R-Greenville: Yes
Rep. Ginny Shaver, R-Leesburg: Yes
Rep. Randall Shedd, R- Cullman: Yes
Rep. Harry Shiver, R-Stockton: Yes
Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne: Yes
Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R- Muscle Shoals: No
Rep. Jeff Sorrells, R-Hartford: Yes
Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette: Yes
Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R- Hartselle: No
Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden: No
Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Mobile: Yes
Rep. Rodney Sullivan, R-Tuscaloosa: Yes
Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris: No
Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley:Yes
Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee
Rep. April Weaver, R- Alabaster: No
Rep. David Wheeler, R- Vestavia Hills:No
Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Harvest: Yes
Rep. Ritchie Whorton, R-Scottsboro: No
Rep. Margie Wilcox, R-Mobile: Yes
Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa: Yes
Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley: Yes
Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston: Yes
Alabama Daily News staff contributed to this report