Editor’s Note: This story is the first in a three-part series.
Over the last few years, many in Baldwin County have echoed a claim about funding from the state of Alabama:
“We’ve got a large number of roads and other infrastructure projects that we’re trying to get done in this county, but it’s hard to do when we aren’t always getting our fair share of the funding from the state,” Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis said. “Baldwin County puts a good amount of revenue into the system, but it’s always questionable what kind of return we see on that revenue from year to year. it’s certainly something we’re looking at closely.”
With the state legislature looking at possibly further raising the gasoline tax this year, the question becomes even more important to Baldwin County residents and leaders alike: Is Baldwin County really a “donor county” for other less prosperous regions of the state or are we getting our fair share?
Five-year comparison on gasoline, diesel sales
Over the last five years, the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization has continued to monitor the gasoline and diesel sold in Baldwin County and its effects on revenues for the county and the state.
In 2013, more than 116 million gallons of gasoline were sold in Baldwin County; in 2018, that amount rose to more than 136 million gallons of gasoline.
Baldwin County generated about $45.8 million in total gasoline tax in 2013, with the state taking almost 40 percent of those funds, a little over $18 million total. In 2018, Baldwin County generated $53.8 million in total gasoline tax revenue, with $21.8 million of those funds going to the state. Over the five year period, Baldwin County’s contribution to state gas tax funds grew by about $3.8 million or 21 percent.
While Baldwin County made up 5 percent of the state’s total gasoline tax revenues in 2013, that percentage dropped to 4.5 percent in 2018.
Diesel sales in Baldwin County have climbed similarly over the last five years, from 22.9 million gallons sold in 2013 to 28.1 million gallons in 2018, increasing the total amount of diesel tax generated in Baldwin from slightly over $11 million to $13.6 million in 2018.
The state takes almost 40 percent of those revenues as well, around $4.3 million in 2013 and $5.3 million in 2018. Baldwin County’s percentage of total state diesel tax funds remained consistent over the five year period, accounting for roughly 3 percent of total diesel tax revenue.
These funds largely go the Alabama Department of Transportation to be redistributed across the state, though some funds do come back to Baldwin County through a split that gives back portions of the state gas and diesel taxes based on equity and population.
State officials have continued to warn Alabama residents that this current funding mechanism may continue to show decreased revenues, as more fuel efficient vehicles hit the market, causing consumers to buy less gasoline overall.
Baldwin County State Senator Chris Elliott said Baldwin County hasn’t seen as much of a decrease in gas and diesel tax because of the county’s high population growth.
“We’ve actually seen a bump in gas tax over the last few years, and we think it’s mainly due to two factors: the decrease in gas prices are letting people drive around more and do more things and we’ve also seen a bump because of our population growth, so any amount we might have been down was made up by the influx or more people and more vehicles coming into Baldwin County,” Elliott said.
Elliott said the proposed gas tax increase is one of the major issues facing the legislature this year and that many questions were being raised around the state about how additional revenue generated by an increase would be handled.
Next week: What revenue does Baldwin County get back from the state and what is it used on? Are we getting as much back as we put in?