Support for Gas Tax Increase Uncertain Among State Lawmakers

Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress

In many ways, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s State of the State address Tuesday was typical. She outlined an array of legislative priorities, and she touted the state’s accomplishments in the employment and technology sectors. But shortly after finishing her speech, she issued a call for a special session for lawmakers to consider her proposal to increase the state’s gas tax. That special session starts Wednesday morning.

Ivey’s plan would increase the tax 10 cents over three years and would support road and bridge projects. Alabama’s gas tax has not increased since 1992. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with Montgomery Advertiser state government reporter Brian Lyman about the special session and Ivey’s speech.

Interview Highlights

Reaction to the special session from lawmakers:

“For the most part leadership is more than happy to do this because I think in the Senate the gas tax seems to have broad support. The real question is in the Alabama House where there seems to be a lack of consensus in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses for pushing this tax. There’s probably a solid core of Republican representatives who are just fully opposed to this tax … There’s a number of representatives who just want to see how things are going.”

Why Ivey would call a special session:

“The value for supporters of a gas tax will be that usually in a regular session there’s a procedural hurdle that requires a three-fifths vote of each chamber to bring a bill to the floor for a vote. In a special session you can bring any bill to the floor, you’d only need a simple majority. That’s the thinking behind calling a special session. It’ll make it easier to get this thing passed. It’s very rare to do a special session within a session. I can’t think of any over the past 10 years.”

Other highlights from Ivey’s speech:

“She called for raises for both teachers and state employees [four percent for teachers and 2-percent for state employees] …Other thing was the governor’s calling for $31 million to hire new personnel for the state’s prisons, which are wracked with violence and are having a difficult time holding onto correctional officers both due to the violence and the low pay. The corrections system is under what is in effect a court order to hire more than 2,000 more staffers in the next three years. Corrections wants to hire 500 this year. We have a really strong economy and it’s going to be very hard to bring in even close to 500 correctional officers without considerably sweetening the pay and benefits.”

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