Home Opinion Inside the Statehouse By Steve Flowers

Inside the Statehouse By Steve Flowers


Infrastructure Program
Should Be Priority 1
As the new quadrennium
crests in Alabama govern-
ment, everybody looks
toward a new beginning.
There is a new fresh four
years ahead for the newly
elected leaders. They are
overwhelmingly Republi-
can. The Governor is Re-
publican and all of the ac-
companying constitutional
officeholders are members
of the GOP. More impor-
tantly, the State Legislature,
both the House and the
Senate are Republicans. In
fact, over two-thirds of each
chamber are Republican. It
is a supermajority.
The cards are lining up
for these leaders to leave a
legacy. That legacy could
and should be to rebuild Al-
abama’s roads and bridges.
The optimum word is infra-
structure. Folks know that
it is time. Alabamians see
the needs everyday as they
drive to work. The staunch-
est and most conservative
people I know throughout
the state tell me, adamantly,
that they are flat ready to
pay more in gasoline tax to
fix their roads.
The hue and cry arises
from rural folks whose
roads are impassable from
large potholes. Birming-
ham’s roads are deplorable.
Suburban commuters who
have to travel highway 280
in Jefferson and Shelby
counties are exasperated. In-
deed, commuters in the state
from all of our largest metro
areas are acutely aware of
the horrendous log jams
they experience every day.
The country folks have
figured out that it would
be cheaper to pay more for
gasoline than it is to pay
for having their frontends
aligned and tires balanced
every few weeks from
hitting holes in their roads.
A good many of the rural
bridges in the state have
been condemned and are
hazardous for heavy trucks
and school buses to travel.
The Alabama Department
of Transportation (ALDOT)
has an unprecedented num-
ber of unmet repairs and ex-
pansions. A spokesman for
ALDOT says there are $10
billion of identified capacity
projects and needs.Some big-ticket items on
the ALDOT list include a
new Interstate 10 and bridge
and Bayway widening proj-
ect in Mobile and Baldwin
Counties, the completion of
the Birmingham northern
beltline, the Montgomery
Outer Loop, and additional
lanes along the interstate in
Speaking of Huntsville,
they are poised to be one of
the fastest growing areas of
the entire nation over the
next decade. It is impera-
tive that their infrastructure
needs are met to keep
pace with their expansion.
Toyota-Mazda is set to build
their largest plant in the
Huntsville-Madison metro
area. They were assured
that roads would be built to
accommodate their location
and expansion.
Alabama, like most
states, relies on gasoline
taxes to pay for their roads
and bridges. It has been 26
years since our gas tax was
raised. The last time that
Alabama had an increase
in our fuel tax was 1992.
That state increase was just
ahead of the last federal
gas tax increase enacted by
Prsident Donald Trump
pledged while running and
again after his election in
2016 to advance a massive
infrastructure program, the
largest in U.S. history. He
signaled support for increas-
ing the federal gasoline tax
to pay for this American
infrastructure initiative.
This rebuilding of
America infrastructure is
one of the bipartisan issues
that both Democrats and
Republicans are espousing.
It is a certainty that states
will have to come up with
matching dollars to get the
federal money. Indeed,
28 states have raised or
reformed their taxes since
2013 in anticipation of a
federal tax increase which
they will have to match.
This is the one issue
in which both parties in
Washington can come to an
agreement. We in Alabama
are not ahead of the curve,
but we are poised to maybe
come to grips with this
issue.A gasoline tax increase
to fund infrastructure needs
will be the paramount issue
of 2019. My guess is that
it will happen this year.
Governor Kay Ivey, shortly
after taking office, said she
“supported an increase in
the state gasoline tax to fix
state roadways.”
House Speaker, Mac
McCutchen, of Huntsville,
has trumpeted the need for
a road program for years.
Most of his Republican col-
leagues in the House ran for
reelection without having to
take a vow that they would
not raise any new revenue
or taxes.
The stars are aligned
for Alabama to act. The
time is now. The timing
is good. We will probably
never have the Chairman
of the United States Senate
Appropriations Committee
as our Senior Senator ever
again. Senator Richard
Shelby will make sure that
we get our fair share of the
federal money. However,
we must have the basic
revenue to draw down the
federal funds.
See you next week