MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A 10-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax increase proposed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was rolling toward final passage Tuesday in the state legislature.
The Republican governor has found broad support in the GOP-dominated legislature for raising the motor fuel tax to fund road and bridge construction. The state House of Representatives approved the bill, 83-20. Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh said Monday that he was confident senators would approve the legislation.
During Senate debate Tuesday, supporters called the infrastructure proposal crucial to maintaining the state's economic competitiveness. The state gasoline tax has not been increased since 1992.
"I want my children to have an opportunity to stay in Alabama and have a good paying job. If our economic engine stutters, stalls, that goes away," Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville
A state senator who opposes the bill said the tax increase would be a burden on low-income drivers in a state where politicians have rejected Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increases and tax reform efforts.
"I cannot with a clear conscience vote yes on this bill because of what it does to low-income people and people under the poverty level," said Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Democrat from Mobile.
The 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase 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 would also place an annual $200 fee on electric vehicles and a $100 annual fee on hybrid vehicles.
Supporters are aiming to get the measure through the Senate without changes and onto Ivey's desk by the evening.
Senators tabled a proposed change by Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Birmingham, that would have created a $40 million pool for tax rebates for low-income motorists. Roberts also proposed to end any automatic increases through indexing in 2039.
Roberts said he wanted to revisit the idea in the regular session.
Ivey made the gas tax proposal one of the first major initiatives of her first full term in office. The governor called lawmakers into a special session that began Wednesday to consider the gas tax increase.
The proposed gas tax increase has divided Republicans. The Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee approved a resolution opposing the measure. However, the Republican governor has the backing of GOP legislative leaders.
Legislators could conclude the special session Tuesday if lawmakers give final approval to the bill.