Gas Tax Emerges As Issue In Alabama Governor's Race

MONTGOMERY, ala. (AP) — As motorists pump gasoline priced at $4 per gallon, the advertisement by gubernatorial challenger Lindy Blanchard appears on the gas pump screen, calling for a suspension of the state fuel taxes.

“We need to put money back in the pockets of hardworking Alabamians,” Blanchard says in the ad.

Blanchard is calling on the state to temporarily suspend the state’s 28 cents-per-gallon gas tax — similar to what the state of Georgia has done — to give consumers a financial break and said, if elected, she will work to roll back parts of the 2019 gas tax increase, such as a provision that built in automatic increases.

The state’s 2019 gas tax increase of ten cents per gallon, championed at the time by Ivey as a way to fund road and bridge construction, has become an issue in the 2022 GOP primary for governor. Both Blanchard and Tim James have sharply criticized the gas tax increase, seeking to harness voter frustration over skyrocketing prices.

Blanchard kicked off an advertising blitz on the subject at a press conference last month outside a Tuscaloosa gas station.

“I know you need help, and I know you need help immediately,” Blanchard said at the appearance.

“We have struggling families and business while our state sits on a surplus and spends enough money to make a drunken sailor blush,” Blanchard said.

Asked for specifics of the proposal, Blanchard’s campaign said she supports a temporary suspension of the state gas tax of 28 cents per gallon through legislative or executive action. She said a temporary suspension of gas taxes would being “immediate relief to hard-working Alabamians during a time of high inflation and the highest gas prices in our state’s history.” She said, if elected, she would seek to roll back parts of the 2019 increase.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law suspending Georgia’s fuel tax — 29.1 cents per gallon — through May after lawmakers approved the measure without any opposition.

Alabama lawmakers in 2019 approved the increase on gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to fund road and bridge construction. The increase amounts to $6 per month for a person who uses 15 gallons of gasoline per week. It was the first increase since 1992. The 2019 increase also included a provision to adjust the state tax would then be adjusted up or down with the National Highway Construction Cost Index and could increase up to a penny every two years.

Asked for a response, Ivey blamed President Joe Biden for high prices.

“Number one, everybody’s feeling the pinch. Let’s not lose sight of the main problem here, and that’s Joe Biden’s policies. He’s got inflation at a 40-year record high. ... The bottom line is that he is a failure, and we can’t deal with that,” she said.

James said he supports a repeal of the entire 10 cent-per-gallon gas increase approved in 2019. The primary election is May 24.