Oh, you want more taxes?
Don't we all mutter that when elected officials come forward with a plan to build or improve something in our community or state?
In Alabama, rejecting taxes or tax increases is common practice. But not in every case.
Voters have proven they will accept an increase when proponents of a plan take the time to research and explain what will be gained from a tax or a tax increase. After years of rejection, Cullman County voters agreed to a small sales tax increase. The money has been beneficial to the public school system. The value of the tax increase was explained in detail, which made a difference.
Alabama and its 67 counties are facing an increasingly dire situation with the condition of roads and bridges. One estimate by the Alliance for Alabama's Infrastructure places half the state's roads and bridges in poor condition. Many Cullman County residents will agree.
The Cullman County Commission hears more about the condition of roads and bridges than any other issue. Spreading money across a county for road and bridge maintenance doesn't go far enough. Every county in the state could use better funding to improve infrastructure.
Jim Page, who is a member of the Alliance, spoke in Cullman on Friday and made a good argument for putting more money to work on infrastructure. The two most important points are: investors look closely at infrastructure before opening new businesses or expanding industries, and poor roads and bridges contribute to fatal wrecks.
Fuel taxes directly affect consumers. Raising the tax will be noticed at the gas pump. But a modest increase can be tolerated because there are noticeable benefits when roads and bridges are improved.
President Donald Trump is adamant about the nation spending billions of dollars on saving its important infrastructure. The investment is needed and both Democrats and Republicans are excited about putting money to work that will open up investment opportunities, improve safety and create employment.
Page cautioned that reaping the most from Trump's intent on roads and bridges will require states being prepared to provide matching shares of money at some level. That's typically how funding works between the federal government and states. He also wisely advised local communities to have more funding available, which is vital to winning more dollars for infrastructure.
The Alabama Legislature should closely examine the fuel tax and reach an agreement on a reasonable increase. With that increase should be the assurance that those dollars will go directly into roads and bridges. At the local level, a consensus also needs to be reached on raising more money for infrastructure. This kind of increase can be measured and provide benefits that we all enjoy, and certainly need.