Photo of Tom Fredricks courtesy of The Decatur Daily
By WILL WHATLEY, MARY SELL and TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An erstwhile State House candidate who campaigned against a potential gas tax increase is still trying to press his opposition by asking the Alabama Republican Party to formally condemn it.
A plan to increase gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements across the state will be the headlining issue of the upcoming legislative session. No legislation has been filed, but a full plan is expected to be announced by legislative leaders in the next week.
Tom Fredricks is the chief sponsor of an anti-gas tax resolution being submitted to the ALGOP during its winter meeting this weekend in Birmingham. He ran twice last year for House District 4 in Morgan and Limestone Counties campaigning on an anti-gas tax message, but lost to State Rep. Parker Moore, R-Decatur, in both a special election and the 2018 Republican Primary.
“This resolution is to affirm the opposition of our state Republican Party to a gas tax that increases the taxpayer burden,” Fredricks told Alabama Daily News.
An original draft of the resolution obtained by Alabama Daily News asked the party to reject “any increase to the current state fuel tax.” However, Fredricks later emailed a softened version stipulating that the party should reject any fuel tax increase that is “not met with an equal reduction elsewhere in existing state revenue.”
Fredricks wrote that he revised the resolution after receiving “some constructive comments from Sen. Trip Pittman and Sen. Del Marsh.”
“[W]e agree that a current increase in the gas tax without reductions in the existing tax revenue would be a move to increase the size and scope of government, redistribute income, and would violate the principles of our state and national Republican platforms,” the resolution says.
The resolution could be voted on by party members on Saturday during its winter meeting in Birmingham. However, the party also has the option to table or set aside controversial resolutions without taking an up or down vote.
Last year the party rejected a proposed resolution criticizing U.S. Senator Richard Shelby for saying he wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore in the 2017 special election. By voting to “indefinitely postpone” the resolution, party members effectively killed it and put a potentially divisive issue to rest.
ALGOP Chairman Terry Lathan did not return messages seeking comment about what the party might do with this resolution.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, is a proponent of greater infrastructure investment via an increased tax tax. He said he’d heard about the resolution and argued that the GOP legislature’s record of cutting taxes over the last eight years should be taken into account.
“I can’t tell you how the vote will go on it, but I can tell you that the legislature is keenly aware that the GOP has cut taxes in recent years,” McCutcheon said. “We’ve had discussions about streams of revenue and how we can save the taxpayer more money (in the future).”
Voters vs GOP?
Moore, the Morgan County State Representative who defeated Fredricks, campaigned both times as a “realist” who would consider the need for a gas tax. On Thursday, he said he found it coincidental that candidates he defeated in the Republican primary are behind the resolution.
Tom Willis is another Morgan GOP member supporting the resolution. He also ran in the 2017 special election for what is now Moore’s seat.
Moore wanted to know the effects of a corresponding tax decrease called for in the resolution.
“How are you going to make that shortfall (in revenue) up?”
Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said she’s not surprised some party members from Morgan County have strong views on the gas tax issue, but the proposed resolution is not the view she hears from constituents.
“The vast majority of who I hear from in my district support funding infrastructure improvements,” Collins said. She said she’s not committing to supporting the legislation until she sees it. Similarly, Moore said he needs to see all the facts in the bill.
Fredricks defended his resolution as upholding low-tax principles of the Republican Party.
“Limiting the size and scope of government is a fundamental tenet of both the state and national Republican platform, and while politicians may call themselves Republicans for political expediency, state party members (and voters), choose party allegiance based on conviction,” Fredricks said.
The resolution has at least a some support. Former Sen. Trip Pittman from Baldwin County said he’s been discussing it Fredricks and will vote for it Saturday.
“Four-hundred-and-some a people get to vote, most will not want to pay more money (in taxes),” Pittman said.