Ross Clark Circle expansion

Traffic flows along the northern portion of Ross Clark Circle in this February 2018 file photo.

If you woke up this morning without a tank full of gasoline, you’re in for a surprise. The fuel you didn’t buy yesterday costs six cents more per gallon today, as the first phase of the state’s 10-cent fuel tax hike went into effect at midnight. The bulk of the increase – six cents – is effective now; the remainder will come in two two-cent hikes down the road.

While it’s a tough pill to swallow now, motorists will soon take it in stride, because the additional revenue is earmarked for road construction and maintenance, including bridges and other infrastructure – all big-ticket items that need continuous attention.

It’s a safe bet that no one wants to pay more in taxes. Many Americans point to wasteful spending in government as rationale to oppose rate increases wholesale. They have a valid point, and while that’s not the whole story, the public unrest is what makes many elected officials regard tax talk as a third rail. So officials balk, and some things are neglected, usually maintenance and upkeep.

In today’s edition, staff writer Jeremy Wise revisited a controversial tax increase in Dothan more than a decade ago. It was so unpopular that then-Mayor Pat Thomas was pelted with pennies at the National Peanut Festival fairgrounds after the tax passed. Two commissioners who supported the hike were ousted at the next election.

But in hindsight, Pat Thomas and four of six commissioners were right – an additional penny of sales tax has helped improve quality-of-life offerings for Dothan residents and position the city on sound fiscal footing.

In the statehouse, the fuel tax increase passed easily, although many Alabamians aren’t quite comfortable with the legwork that secured the vote. Gov. Kay Ivey was open about efforts to gain support, saying that Republican legislative candidates were asked if they would support the measure, and were encouraged not to run if they wouldn’t. The road infrastructure bill – the gas tax hike – will likely be her signature accomplishment.

If all goes according to plan, the large number of deficient bridges and miles of roadway will be renewed, and the majority of motorists won’t notice a significant hit to their fuel budgets.

Will it have been worth it? Ask us again in 10 years.

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