Infrastructure: Alabama needs a road program

By Steve FlowersGuest Columnist

One of the obvious political changes in Alabama government over the last decades with the Republican takeover of the Legislature has been the reluctance to raise new revenue to fund state government.  Many of the current Republican legislators came to Montgomery in 2010 with a no new tax pledge.  Voting for any kind of tax or fee increase was considered blasphemous.

In bygone days, powerful governors like Big Jim Folsom and George Wallace would raise taxes at the drop of a hat.  Especially when it came to a gasoline tax to build roads.  It was perfunctory and almost mandatory for a governor to have a Road Program.  That was their legacy and how they and their legislative allies made friends.  It was expected that a governor would build roads.  Raising the gas tax was the only way to create a Road Program.  Folks didn’t seem to mind.  Looks like this current Legislature may have realized they need a Road Program.

During the Wallace era, one day, Governor Wallace was having a benign news conference to talk politics and garner publicity.  A young reporter out of the blue asked him a pointed question.  “Governor, why do you give all the road building contracts and permits to your cronies, contributors and legislative allies?”  Wallace looked at him quizzically and replied, “Who do you think I ought to give them to, my enemies?”

In 1983 I was a young freshman legislator and Wallace was in his last term as governor, and as usual, he was going to have a Road Program.  Well he wasn’t just interested in raising the gas tax, he was taxing just about everything that wasn’t nailed down.  He had already asked us to pass eight or nine “revenue enhancement measures,” before he came with the whopper the gas tax for roads, highways, and bridges.

I was actually Wallace’s representative since I represented his home county of Barbour.  Therefore, I was dutifully voting with the governor because, believe me, our area was going to get more than our fair share with Wallace as Governor.

See complete story in the Pickens County Herald.
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