Alabama road lobby seeks higher fuel taxes

| Monday, January 12, 2004

Alabama’s road-building industry could push for higher fuel taxes when state lawmakers head to the Capitol next month to avoid losing millions of dollars in federal highway funds.

Industry lobbyist Billy Norrell told The Associated Press a 5-cent-per-gallon increase on diesel fuel and gasoline would help pay for upgrades on roads, mass and rural transit, and small airports.

Norrell, executive director of the Alabama Road Builders Association, said the state in coming years could miss qualifying for millions of dollars in federal transportation grants without the higher taxes. The federal government grants states $4 for every dollar raised in state fuel taxes or other matching state money.

The suggested 5-cent hike could raise about $120 million a year, AP reported.

Several state lawmakers predicted getting the Legislature to raise fuel taxes this spring would be a hard sell. They indicated needs are more urgent at state agencies other than the Department of Transportation.

State DOT officials said they could use more money. The agency spends about $120 million a year for highway maintenance, but officials told AP $250 million to $300 million a year is needed.

“There’s no question that we need more money for improving roads in the state,” said Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega. But Preuitt, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, added, “The people aren’t in a taxing mood.”

Lawmakers will kick off their 15-week regular session Feb. 3.

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