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Gas tax proposal runs into opposition

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Some Jefferson County legislators are discussing increasing the state gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon to pay for transportation programs, but it is not a popular idea with some leaders at the Capitol.

Lawmakers from Alabama's most populous county have talked about dividing the tax, with half going to the state and half to the counties to spend on their transportation priorities, including public transit.

"It empowers each county to set its own priorities and control 50 percent of money generated in their own county," said state Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham.

Gov. Bob Riley said he could not support a gas tax increase, and several legislators share his view.

"Gas is very expensive as it is," said Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Mobile Democrat.

Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said, "This is not a good time to be talking about a gas tax."

The current state gas tax is 18 cents on the gallon, with 2 cents going to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries as an inspection fee.

The gas tax increase would generate about $127 million a year for the state Department of Transportation, Coleman said.

Coleman said the tax could help alleviate a shortage of funding that has placed some projects in urban and rural areas of the state "on the back burner."

Some counties, she said, are not able to access federal dollars for highway projects because they do not have the required local matching funds.

Billy Norrell, executive director of the Alabama Road Builders Association, said the group supports a 5-cent increase to go to the state for road and bridge work.

He said his board has not voted on whether it would support a portion of gas tax revenues going to public transit.

"Historically, that's always been off-limits," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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