State auditor suggests plan to fund infrastructure, some skeptical

Zeigler talks road, bridge funds

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - State leaders have said they are making infrastructure a top priority this session and are considering a gas tax increase.

But Monday the state auditor, Jim Zeigler, released a plan which he says will fund infrastructure without a gas tax increase.

Zeigler wants lawmakers to take $63 million from the general fund budget and use it to pay for a 20-year-bond issue for infrastructure.

He suggests three ways to pay for the $63 million hole. First, he wants to use the money on unused store gift cards, and give it to the state.

Secondly, he wants to rely on the state's economic growth to fund this. Thirdly, he wants to cut an average 1.5 percent of the administrative costs of most state agencies.

“I’ve given them a way to avoid having to vote on a tax increase as their first major vote," Zeigler said. "This is a way to fund the highways and infrastructure needs without a gas tax increase.”

However, some are skeptical about how feasible the plan is.

General Fund Budget Chairman Rep. Steve Clouse said the state can’t depend on the economy to make up that much of a hole in the general fund budget as Zeigler suggests.

“The revenue growth that we’re experiencing right now is from the income tax and sales tax and the general fund doesn’t get any of that," Clouse said.

The Education Trust Fund receives most of the money from the income and sales tax revenue.

Economist Dr. Keivan Deravi said there could be consequences for taking this much money out of the general fund.

“The general fund is already cash strapped this diverting any existing appropriations and potential future growth from it can be serious unintended consequences for the fund,” Deravi said.

Zeigler said he has sent the plan to lawmakers and the governor. The governor has not commented on the plan.

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