Gov. Kay Ivey's controversial gas tax hike is headed for a possible vote on Friday. The House Transportation Committee Thursday -- on a voice vote -- approved the 10-cent per gallon increase, sending it to the full House. The hearing was attended by representatives of several powerful special interest groups, including the BCA and ALFA, which back the proposal. The sponsor -- Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) -- expected a major showdown on the House floor. "It will be a very passionate discussion ... there will be a lot of opinions expressed," Poole said. The vote is expected to be close. Many Republicans are coming out against the massive tax hike, forcing GOP House Speaker Mac McCutcheon to solicit support from Democrats. Tax backers, led by Ivey, claim the increase is needed to fix the state's infrastructure. But millions are allocated for improvements to the state port in Mobile.
The governor, in a televised interview, revealed that freshmen Republican lawmakers were coached to support a tax increase before declaring their candidacies. "They were vetted by the House and Senate leadership, and if they were not for increasing the gas tax ... they were not encouraged to run," Ivey said.
Opponents, including State Auditor Jim Zeigler, say the state diverts more than $63 million per year from the highway funds to other state services. Zeigler says a total of more than $300 million has been diverted. Ralph Long, chairman of Stop the Alabama Gas Tax, said: "Every single legislator who knifes their constituents in the back with this massive gas-tax increase will be held accountable."
The House is scheduled to meet Friday starting at 10:30 a.m.