Hooked on highways: Experts say the gasoline habit is a hard one to break

George Pierce of Anniston fills up his Ford Bronco. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)

With the opening of the 2019 session of the Alabama Legislature drawing near, the Alabama Policy Institute, one of the state's conservative think-tanks, has published a position paper on a main topic legislators will consider this year -- raising the state tax on gasoline.

That tax hasn't increased since 1992, and lawmakers are rightly considering a modest increase to help pay for the state's poor roads and bridges.

The API is endorsing the increase, though only if it lawmakers include three conditions that it believes will lessen the impact on taxpayers and retain the institute's conservative ethos.

Here, though, is the sentence from the API position paper that caught my attention: "API acknowledges that government cannot provide essential services without the revenue to pay for those services."

That is undoubtedly true. Without adequate revenue, government fails. And in Alabama, the API-styled policy of cutting expenses and using tax increases as a last resort -- or no resort at all -- has created modern-day Alabama. Virtually everything in Alabama that operates on tax receipts suffers from under-funding. Think: prisons, state troopers, public safety, roads, schools, higher education. It's a long list. 

Meanwhile, Alabama is 50th in the nation in tax collections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Retirement Systems of Alabama chief David Bronner is again pointing out how damaging that is to our state's present and its future.

“You have to have funds to meet minimum standards,” Bronner said. 

-- Phillip Tutor

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