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Proposed gasoline tax doesn’t go far enough

If you are old enough, pause for a moment and think back to prices in 1992.

Gas was $1.13 per gallon.

Eggs were 93 cents a dozen.

Milk, $2.78 a gallon.

The average cost of a new car was $16,950.

Bacon was $1.92 per pound.

Today’s higher costs aren’t just found in household items, but in almost all aspects of the economy. Such is true in the business of maintaining roads.

However, as Covington County Engineer Lynn Ralls pointed out in a public hearing Monday night, the revenue with which to maintain those roads has been basically flat since 1992.

Road and bridge funds come from gasoline taxes. Gasoline is taxed per gallon, not on the cost per gallon. Whereas sales taxes collected increase as the cost of goods increase, gasoline taxes remain flat.

The last increase was in 1992, and because the fuel efficiency of automobiles has improved since then, revenues have actually dropped.

The need to repair roads and bridges has not decreased.

Local commissioners, along with commissions in the other 66 counties in Alabama, are working to convince the Alabama legislature to impose a 3-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax with which to fund a $1.2 billion bond issue for road and bridge improvements across the state. The proposed tax would remain in place for the 15 years needed to repay the bonds.

After listening to Mr. Ralls’ presentation, we are convinced the commissions aren’t asking for enough new revenue.

The bond issue would give governments – including municipalities – in Covington County a total of $13.2 million. It’s a one-time deal.

But based on current costs of supplies and labor, Ralls estimates the county should be spending $4.9 million per year on road repairs.

While no one wants more taxes, gasoline taxes can be considered a fee for use. If you don’t drive, you don’t buy gasoline, and therefore you don’t pay.

According to drivealabama.org, the bond issue would cost the average Alabama driver a nickel per day, or less than $1.50 each month.

We believe the one-time money won’t go far enough in repairing our aging infrastructure in the state.

The local commission appears poised to adopt a resolution in support of the tax. The legislature, which has in recent years been willing only to increase fees, should approve the proposed bill.