Bills propose county gas tax referendums for roads

County governments could ask voters to raise gasoline taxes by as much as 5 cents for specific local road projects, under a bill that received committee approval this week.

On Thursday, Feb. 1, the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee approved SB89 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. Similar legislation by Orr never received floor debate in the 2017 regular session. The House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee will consider the House version of the legislation, HB360, at its 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, meeting.

County commissions are to provide voters with a list of road and bridge projects to be paid for by any gas tax they propose.  Under the legislation, the gas tax increase could only last up to five years and couldn’t exceed 5 cents. The local road projects could be within municipalities in the county. During debate of the 2017 legislation, the Alabama Department of Revenue said 27 counties and about 320 municipalities at that time already had local gas taxes. Orr said his bill does not conflict with those taxes. “It gives them another vehicle to fund roads, but it does not replace other methods of adding gas taxes,” he said.

Legislative leaders have said they will not bring up a statewide gas tax hike for infrastructure until 2019.

Orr told the committee his bill also does not conflict with the broader statewide effort. “It provides the framework to allow local governments to identify the needs and let the people vote,” he said.

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