MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Republican gubernatorial challenger Tim James on Wednesday called for a repeal of Alabama’s 2019 gas tax increase – as well as an end to the state’s sales tax on groceries – saying families need relief from soaring prices.
James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, is one of several GOP candidates challenging Gov. Kay Ivey in the upcoming Republican primary. He is seeking to use the gas tax increase that Ivey supported as a wedge issue with primary voters.
James said he supports a repeal of the 10-cent-per-gallon gas increase approved in 2019, as well as a repeal of the state’s sales tax on food and business privilege tax.
“The people of Alabama are fed up,” James said during a news conference in Montgomery.
“It’s affecting whether they can fill up their car with gas or make a house payment or sign up their kids for baseball. That’s how serious this is, ”James said.
Alabama lawmakers in 2019 approved the increase on gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to fund road and bridge construction. The increase amounts to $ 6 per month for a person who uses 15 gallons of gasoline per week.
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James said he understands some people argue that “isn’t that big of a deal,” but repealing it would reduce what families and businesses pay in fuel costs.
James is one of a number of Republicans challenging Ivey in the May 24 primary. The field also includes Lindy Blanchard, who served as ambassador to Slovenia under former President Donald Trump.
A spokesman for Ivey’s campaign cited her record on job creation, unemployment as well as social issues, including an attempt to outlaw abortions in the state and a ban on transgender girls playing on female sports teams.
“While others talk, Governor Ivey delivers …. Governor Ivey is fighter, and she will remain focused on getting results for Alabamians and defending conservative Alabama values,” her campaign said.
Some legislative leaders have said a repeal of the 10-cent increase would not have a major impact on prices at the pump, but would interrupt the road and bridge construction being funded by the 2019 Rebuild Alabama Act.
Ivey, after a morning appearance at the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, said she did not support a temporary freeze on state gas taxes “at this time.” She put the blame for rising prices on “Biden policies.”
“Under President Trump you could go buy gas and not have to hold your breath,” Ivey said.
Gas prices have soared in recent months partly because of global supply concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The situation has prompted several states to pause gas taxes.
James said he would also repeal the state’s 4% sales tax on food. Repealing the sales tax on groceries has often been proposed in Montgomery, but has never been approved over concerns about the loss of the approximately half-billion dollars it provides for the state’s education fund.
Alabama is one of only three states with no tax break on groceries, according to Alabama Arise.
James also proposed a repeal of the state’s business privilege tax, a tax on entities doing business in the state, that generated $ 186 million last year.
James said he would not replace the revenue, arguing that lawmakers could use a current budget surplus and then economic growth to maintain state services without cuts. The Legislative Services Agency has cautioned that the state is seeing an unusual growth in tax collections and that another economic downturn is likely.
James previously staked out far-right positions including criticizing legislation that allowed students to do yoga in public schools.
James ran for governor in 2002 and 2010, when he narrowly missed making the GOP runoff, finishing about 200 votes behind the eventual winner, Robert Bentley, who was elected governor that year and later resigned.
Serving as lieutenant governor at the time, Ivey took over as governor in 2017 upon Bentley’s resignation and was elected to a full term the following year.
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