There’s a word no politician or voter ever likes to hear. But when the 2019 Alabama Legislature convenes in March, Sen. Pro Tem Del Marsh says it’s likely to come up. A lot.

“I think you can see legislation dealing with — and I’ll say the dreaded word — a gas tax,” Marsh told the Leadership Series Luncheon at the Foley Civic Center on Nov. 28. The meeting was part of an ongoing South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce series.

Marsh, who represents District 12 in east Alabama including the cities of Anniston and Jacksonville, said two major issues are on his mind as the 2019 session looms: boosting expectations for education and infrastructure.

Even as he’s heard from colleagues supporting his return as pro tem, he also challenged those same senators to come back ready to work.

“Think hard about it because when January comes around and it’s time to vote pro tem and my name is on there,” Marsh said. “If you’re not willing to step up and do some of the bolder things the state needs in education and infrastructure, I’m not your guy. I want to see something done.

He says the gas tax is vital to bolstering infrastructure in the state and believes the Port of Mobile is a key component.

“If we can deepen that port then we can double the amount of commerce coming and going and that’s important to the state of Alabama,” Marsh said. “We are talking about taking a percentage of any tax increase to go to the port authority. We believe there’s going to be federal money that can be matched to deepen the harbor to make these improvements we need to continue to make at the port.”

Marsh said several talks during the latter part of 2018 have been about infrastructure, including the port, and that Gov. Kay Ivey is on board to help.

“I spoke with the governor three weeks ago and any infrastructure bill the governor is going to be connected with will have an element for the port in it,” Marsh said.

Raising the gas tax has proven problematic since it was last raised to 18 cents per gallon in 1992. Marsh said cars get more miles to the gallon than in 1992 and the wear and tear on the roads has increased while the tax has not.

“It’s not like sales tax where you pay a certain percentage,” Marsh said. “It’s a flat number and that number has stayed flat for 26 years. I want an index model and what we’re looking at is the Consumer Price Index. The fuel tax would be increased based on the Consumer Price Index, but have floors and ceilings where it can’t go more than a certain amount per year.”

On education, Marsh said the state needs to develop a comprehensive plan involving all levels of education instead of separate plans for Pre-K, K-12 and higher education.

“We’re working on these things with the goal to bump up the expectation of education and reward educators throughout this state,” he said.