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Gas tax increase gets nod from Alabama House committee

Pumping gas

Gas pumps at the Kangaroo station on Alabama 202 in Anniston.

MONTGOMERY — A committee in the Alabama House of Representatives gave its approval Monday to a bill that would add a 5-cent-per-gallon tax to gasoline and diesel fuel.

The bill, which now moves to the full House for a vote, would automatically add a 2-cent-per-gallon increase in some years, if the price of gas falls within a limit set by a complex formula outlined in the bill.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R- Huntsville, said the state hasn't increased the per-gallon tax since 1992 and can't continue to operate on 1990s revenue levels.

"We've got two-lane roads that carry thousands of cars per day," he said.  "We've got counties that don't have a four-lane road in them."

Opponents said the bill would add to the cost of living for everyone in the state.

"We're opposed to the bill," said Jim Sizemore, a representative of the Alabama Trucking Association. "It is a massive increase, and it's not good for the economy."

The per-gallon approach to gas tax has long bedeviled policymakers at both the state and federal levels, who say revenues from the tax don't keep up with the cost of road construction. Alabama, like most states, sends gas tax revenues directly to the Transportation Department and local governments for road maintenance.

McCutcheon's bill would yield an estimated $100 million in 2016 and $150 million in 2017, with about one-third of the revenue going to local governments.

The bill comes as lawmakers consider significant tax increases to shore up the state's General Fund, which faces a $200 million shortfall next year. The gas tax wouldn't directly affect the General Fund, though the Transportation Department has in the past been called on to transfer money to the General Fund.

Committee members approved the bill in a voice vote. It could come before the full House as early as this week.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.