House Rules Committee Chairman Mac McCutcheon at this week’s Business Council of Alabama Tuesday Meeting said while business-backed measures and the General Fund will be on the House’s agenda over the next several legislative days, transportation funding is the significant issue for Alabama’s economic vitality.
McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, said transportation funding legislation is still being drafted and will include input from the business community. Increased investment in Alabama’s surface transportation is a business and economic development issue, McCutcheon said, “Because Alabama is a business and we’ve got to protect that.”
“North and south, our ability to move products and services will be our downfall of economic development if we don’t do something about it,” McCutcheon said.
Five regional transportation meetings were conducted prior to the Feb. 2 start of the 2016 regular legislative session in order to inform legislators, policy makers, and the public of the need for additional investment in Alabama’s surface transportation.
Local Chambers of Commerce and the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure partnered with the Alabama Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee at those five meetings to discuss road and bridge needs. McCutcheon is chairman of the Joint Transportation Committee.
The BCA supports additional transportation investment that is dedicated to roads and bridges. The last time Alabama increased its investment in roads and bridges was in 1992 when a 5-cent tax was added to each gallon of fuel.
Since then inflation and better vehicle fuel mileage have eroded the purchasing power of that nickel. “We’re getting behind,” McCutcheon said.
McCutcheon said he’s not sure yet what the additional investment amount will be in his legislation.
Last week, McCutcheon spoke at a BCA-hosted news conference about a new transportation research study that said that Alabama’s deteriorating roads and bridges threaten to stifle economic growth and development.
The study by the Washington, D.C.-based research organization TRIP identified 50 transportation improvements that are needed to support economic growth and quality of life. The TRIP report, “The Top 50 Highway Projects to Support Economic Development and Quality of Life in Alabama,” can be found at www.tripnet.org.
The price tag of those 50 projects is $4.6 billion but the cost of doing nothing will be much higher in potential injuries and deaths from unsafe roads, lost productivity from traffic jams, and the extra cost of vehicle maintenance caused by deteriorating roads, said Rocky Moretti, TRIP’s director of policy and research.
Representatives from the Alabama Trucking Association, the Alabama Road Builders Association, the Economic Development Association of Alabama, Associated General Contractors, and the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure attended the news conference. The AAI is comprised of members of Alabama’s business community, chambers of commerce, industry associations, community groups, and concerned citizens.
In other House business, HB 34, the Alabama Renewal Act, which would grant certain tax credits for the state’s port facilities, is on the agenda of Wednesday’s House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. McCutcheon is the sponsor.
“It helps to enhance economic development of this state,” McCutcheon said.
McCutcheon described the Education Trust Fund budget as “whole” due to its protection against proration but the 2016-17 General Fund budget will require much work to balance.
He also said that the right-to-work constitutional amendment that failed by three votes last week due to the absence of some House members will be brought back up for consideration. “We’re encouraging members to stay put and vote,” McCutcheon said.
The BCA supports HB 37, the right-to-work constitutional amendment introduced by Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham.
Another BCA-backed bill, HB 125 by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, is on Wednesday’s agenda of the House Education Policy Committee.
The BCA supports HB 125 that would create the Alabama Longitudinal Data System. It will match student performance data and workforce data while guaranteeing privacy and protection of student information.
BCA Tuesday Meetings feature legislative leadership and administration officials who discuss topics of interest to Alabama’s business community. Today’s meeting was sponsored by Alabama Power Co., a 110-year-old company that serves 1.5 million customers in the southern two-thirds of the state.