Alabama GOP About To Eat Crow Over Proposed Gas Tax

After years of vociferously attacking any type of taxation or revenue increase for public services as inherently evil, the Alabama GOP is awkwardly poised to battle a rhetorical nightmare of its own creation. It ironically illuminates the hypocrisy of the GOP platform because finding revenue to repair the state’s roads and decaying infrastructure means that Republicans are now embracing a hefty gas tax.

Well, at least they aren’t trying to raise revenue in the sneaky way that former disgraced Gov. Bentley did by raising fees on everything he possibly could. Yep, he didn’t raise taxes, he raised fees in very bigly way, got it?

At issue amongst the Republican ideological purists is the idea that there should never be a tax increase without simultaneously lowering another tax to ensure revenue neutrality. To them it is an immutable categorical imperative. It makes you wonder if Immanuel Kant was a secret Alabama Republican.

Of course, this comes after the monolithic groupthink of the Alabama Republican Supermajority that has spent the better part of a decade underfunding as many government agencies and services as it possibly can. It defies common sense in the same way that Trump arbitrarily decided that agencies can only impose a new regulation if they eliminated two… just because.

Their vilification of taxation and raising necessary revenue has resulted in a judicial system that is woefully underfunded and understaffed. It has resulted in a state forensics lab that is years behind in processing evidence. In fact, there are far too many examples to count when it comes to how Alabama Republicans have starved the state government of the resources it needs to serve the people.

We may have potholes all over our roads and bridges that are about to fall in the river, but we somehow always seem to find a way to give out tax incentives and breaks to obscenely wealthy companies that don’t need it. Republicans like to pretend that giving corporations a free ride is great because they will create tons of jobs and the tax coffers will magically overflow. Except, it never quite works out that way, which is why they are now in the unenviable position of begging their base for an enormous gas tax hike.

However, as state politicians debate the merits of imposing another regressive tax that will adversely affect the poor, much like the grocery tax, there are a few interesting opportunities for bipartisan agreement. Democrats and Republicans can both agree that there is way too much immovable, earmarked money in the state budget which gives scant flexibility to legislators to fund what their constituents view as priorities. Also, both parties can agree that reform is necessary in state income taxes and in the state’s property and land use taxes. Of course, they will disagree wholeheartedly on the specifics of those reforms, although it’s obvious to most people that Alabama’s system of taxation is mostly regressive and fundamentally unfair.

So, it’s going to be an amusing legislative session as Republicans go to war against the conservative purists that put them in office in the first place. Hopefully, legislators will realize the folly of these ideological purity tests and get to work on finding fair ways to fund infrastructure projects and public services. It’s interesting that folks in Alabama have already forgot that it wasn’t that long ago when the state was on ‘proration’ and couldn’t pay its own basic bills.

Eventually, these Republican legislators are probably going to try to kick the can down the road again, but they may end up losing it in a pothole that they should have fixed a long time ago.

Clete Wetli
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.