Tom Fredricks
Republican for Alabama House District 4

Tom's Corner

Opinions, musings, and discourse by Tom.

Dollars and Sense...(and probably a gas tax) in Alabama

Alabama Constitution.jpg

Lotta pressure these days for infrastructure, and most certainly, the "gas tax" will be a hot topic in the upcoming, and possibly subsequent legislative sessions.

I present myself as a "no tax" guy when it comes to bullet points. But since we are blogging here, let me expound.

Here are some numbers:

In the state of Alabama, we receive about $5,400 per individual in government spending, a little over half of which is sourced by the state, the bulk of the rest, federal. The national average is around $5,800 — not that much higher; about 7%.

In comparison, our per capita income in Alabama is around $24,000, compared to a national per capita of around $31,000. Using that as a benchmark, we should only be getting around $4,500 per individual, all other things being equal.

What about cost of living? In conjunction with lower than average wages, Alabamians likewise have a lower cost of living. 10% lower than the national average.

We pay a sufficient amount of tax per capita in Alabama. Period.

So...why the call for more taxes. Specifically, why the call for a fuel tax?

Well, I believe it is because Alabamians simply don't (or more accurately, didn't) trust the legislative body with their money. As a result, we have around 90% of all revenues allocated to a specific cause. We collectively call this "earmarking", and it hamstrings the budgetary process. No other state does this anywhere near the level we do. None. If we need improvements to infrastructure, under the current Alabama constitution, we pretty much have to increase fuel taxes. Sound silly? I think it is.

But let's set aside the issue of the need to re-write the entire Alabama Constitution, that's a gripe for another day. Back to taxes...

My position on a fuel tax (or any other tax)... We are taxed enough. If we want better roads and bridges, I am perfectly amenable to that, and as such, could support increasing the tax on fuel if — and only if — it does not impact the per capita cumulative state tax burden. In other words, we have to pull the money from some other allocation, not the taxpayer's pocket, and that will increase the complexity of any "fuel tax" proposal exponentially. That will be a challenge, and under the archaic structure of the Alabama Constitution, and the inevitable requirement of yet another constitutional amendment, nearly impossible.

It is a mess, but to simply put an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer because our system is flawed is not an acceptable solution. Alabamians pay enough cumulative taxes. Period. 

Tom Fredricks