Local Government FULL STORY: County mayors, commissioners support vote on fuel tax hike to fund road repairs | CullmanSense

Local Government

FULL STORY: County mayors, commissioners support vote on fuel tax hike to fund road repairs

Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Good Hope explains the proposed fuel tax legislation to county commissioners and mayors at Wednesday's meeting of the Cullman County Mayors and Commissioners Association. / W.C. Mann

CULLMAN - On Wednesday, the Cullman County Mayors and Commissioners Association (CCMCA) voted to support proposed legislation that would add 3 cents to the county’s existing 1-cent gasoline tax, and would create a 4-cent tax on diesel fuel.

Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Good Hope said, “We’ve held several community meetings around the county, and I think we can all agree, pretty much, that the number one concern that I hear about is infrastructure and our roads, especially the rural county portions of those roads.

“To the defense of the (Cullman County) Commission, the funds are not there to adequately maintain the roads like they should be . . . The commissioners do a pretty good job with what they have to work with.”

Commissioners noted that the county has the second largest number of roads among all counties in the state by mileage, and the most miles of roads not maintained by municipalities, but it is 17th among all counties in receipt of funds for road repair and maintenance.

Road repaving can cost $75,000 to $100,000 per mile, and the estimated total for repairs to all the county’s roads could reach $182 million.

Harbison brought the following proposal to the association:

  • Add 3 cents per gallon of gasoline, for a total of 4 cents per gallon.
  • Add 4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel, which is currently not taxed in Cullman County.
  • If the sale takes place within an incorporated area, that municipality and the County will split the tax evenly.  Right now, all fuel tax from in-town sales goes to the municipality, and the County receives no tax revenue.
  • If the sale takes place in an unincorporated area, the County will receive all the tax revenue.
  • All fuel tax must be spent on materials for road repair, resurfacing projects or bridge repair.
  • The revenue cannot be used for salaries.
  • If passed by the Alabama Legislature, the proposed tax will go before the voters of Cullman County on the November 2018 general election ballot.

Harbison repeatedly emphasized two points: that all revenue generated by the new tax would remain in Cullman County, and that the citizens of Cullman County must be allowed to vote on the measure.

“The key thing,” said Harbison, “is this would stay within Cullman County.  That’s important to us, whatever we do, if we do anything, to keep our money local in Cullman County.

“We can put the information out there and let the citizens of Cullman County make an educated decision.  And this is what we have, and this is going to help with the problem.

“All we can do is pass legislation and put it up for a vote.  Or we could pass it without a vote, but I would never support that.  I don’t think the mayors or commissioners would support that, either.”

Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker noted that the County has not enacted a new fuel tax since 1992.  Both Harbison and the commissioners admitted that this tax would not completely solve all of the County’s road issues, but they agreed it would at least be a step in the right direction.

Said Walker, “It’s not a fix, it’s just a help.”

The 2018 Alabama legislative session begins Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.

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