Update — The annual fees for electric and plug-in hybrids have been reduced in a subsequent version of the bill to $200 and $100, respectively.
Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday called a special session to consider her proposed gas tax increase for road and bridge construction.
Under the governor’s gas tax proposal, energy-efficient vehicle owners would pay additional annual taxes and fees compared to regular vehicle owners. Electric car owners would have to pay $250 in extra fees; those who own hybrid-electric vehicles would pay an extra $125.
She said half of the state’s 16,000 bridges are older than their 50-year life span. “We have urban roads in poor condition,” she said. “Our drivers are experiencing major congestion on our freeways.”
County roads are resurfaced far less frequently than they should be, she said.
The special session begins Wednesday. Ivey’s proposal would increase the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon, phased in over three years. The gas tax was last increased in 1992.
The revenue from that increase would also go toward improving the Alabama State Docks and the Mobile Ship Channel, according the governor.
Ivey opened her State of the State address Tuesday with a moment of silence for the 23 victims of a tornado that struck Lee County. “While there is always uncertainty in what tomorrow may bring, there is absolute certainty in the resiliency of the people of Alabama,” she said.
She touted the state’s growing technology sector. “Major technology companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Shipt are showing the rest of the country what it means to do business in our state,” she said. Alabama, she added, has emerged as a “powerhouse” in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Ivey acknowledged that despite the state’s low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, there is still work to be done. An estimated 80,000 Alabamians are looking for jobs. “And to those across our state who are still searching, I urge you to not lose faith, because we are not going to rest on our efforts, and we will not leave you behind,” she said.
Ivey outlined other legislative priorities, including a proposed $25 million expansion of the state’s pre-kindergarten program, a four percent teacher raise and a two percent raise for state employees.
She’s proposing a $31 million bump in the state general fund budget to go toward the prison system, which has grappled with severe overcrowding and an alarming number of inmate suicides in recent years. A federal judge has mandated the state improve mental health care in its prisons, calling it “horrendously inadequate” in 2017.
State prison officials say the Department of Corrections wants to hire an additional 500 officers to comply with federal orders to increase staffing.
Also on Tuesday, President Donald Trump approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Lee County. Ivey said that will unlock federal dollars, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, loans to cover uninsured property loss, and other disaster recovery programs.
“President Trump has been very gracious and pledged his unwavering support to Alabama since the devastating storms and tornadoes struck Alabama over the weekend,” Ivey said in a statement. Trump announced plans to visit Lee County on Friday.