Charlene and I were talking recently about what it’s like to try to interpret God’s will. To be sure, He is a God of clarity, not a God of confusion. The receiving end of His communications (basically, my side of the conversation) is usually where things get jammed up. I know that He has plans for us, plans not to harm us but to prosper us, plans to give us a future and a hope, a promise He makes in Jeremiah 29:11.
Now truthfully, there have been some amazingly monumental decisions that have crossed into my life that were actually very easy to make: asking Charlene to marry me 36 years ago… too easy; making a late-in-life decision to go to law school in my 30’s…. not a problem; running for public office… I made that decision in about two days’ time.
But on others, I can sometimes find myself operating in the gray. When I find myself in that position, I know that it’s good for me to not only pray over it, but to get some wise counsel, and even fast at times to help me focus on the task at hand. I will try to assess the opportunity before me in terms of what I believe my gifts or talents would be able to accomplish. If my time permits, I will try to get away from the endless distractions of life and sort the wheat from the chaff, if you know what I mean.
In those searching moments, I’ve noticed that sometimes I can also view opportunities and recognize that God will line things up and speak to us in our circumstances. A number of times I have found myself viewing the events of my life that appear to be opening some door or other and sought insight as to whether they were meant for me to engage, or if they were just distractions from my greater purpose. Those are times where I’m literally asking the Lord: “tell me why I should do this?”
Where it really gets interesting is when events, talents, gifts, even the thoughts and input of others all appear to be lining up and I find my prayer shifting from “Why” to “Why not.”
In that vein, I have literally found myself at times saying “God, this is what I see, and feel, and hear. So please, if it’s not your will then tell me why not.”
When you get down to the “why not” phase of decision-making, you are really in a good place, and that’s a luxury if you get down to it.
So, I say all of that to switch gears into the “why not” that politicians sometimes face. It’s apparent to me that there are any number of things that politicians cannot control. I know that firsthand.
With that said, I also know that there are some things that elected officials can do, and even should do, that they simply choose not to do. Whether because of influences from outside, or because of groupthink within their caucus, or maybe they want to avoid thinking about it, or just that they simply don’t want to. They too easily lose sight of those “why would you not?” opportunities.
Case in point: there is a national movement right now toward relieving the pain at the gas pump. Multiple state leaders in multiple states from both sides of the aisle have been proposing a gas tax holiday - a moratorium if you will - on the tax amounts that the state charges for each of us to get gas for our vehicles.
In the last week, the governor of Georgia signed legislation to relieve Georgians of their state gas tax. Similar action is being passed, or at the very least debated, in multiple other states such as Florida, Michigan, Maryland, and even California. I mean, why would they not?
Meanwhile, our state legislature won’t even debate the issue and Governor Ivey has agreed publicly with the same position touted by liberal Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer that we shouldn’t even temporarily freeze gas taxes because the state needs the money more than its citizens do.
Did you know that every single state in this great nation charges anywhere from 25-51 cents per gallon for gas, on top of any federal and sometimes local taxes? According to a recent study, the average American household is currently facing roughly $2,000 a year in increased out-of-pocket expenses in 2022 due to the cost of gas for their vehicles. Factor that against Alabama’s median family income of just over $51,000 and that increase at the pump represents an almost 4% cut in pay for many Alabama families. This doesn’t even take into account the rising cost of goods, which are only further exacerbated by higher shipping, farming, and delivery costs due to prices at the pump.
Currently, in Alabama, the state charges 28 cents per gallon in gas tax at the point of sale. Maybe it wouldn’t be life-changing or change the economic trajectory of the state as a whole for the legislature and the governor to take such action. But what if our officials in Montgomery did say, “Hey folks, we see what you’re going through, and we want to do something that benefits everyone, so we’re going to join with the other states who are already doing this and give you a 90, 120, 180-day break from gas taxes and save you 28 cents on the gallon.”
Why would they not? It would be more than just noticeable … it would make a dent in public opinion. It would send the message that they’re not just there to feed government, they are there for their folks back home. Why would they not?
It is not hard, and it is certainly warranted. There is absolutely case precedent and the funds are there to make it up based on the massive surpluses currently in Alabama’s coffers.
That’s where we are and, yes, they are currently in legislative session with time and opportunity to act. But the silence has been deafening. The issue is before them but no open debate has entered into the public forum at all. It really comes down to that kind of decision-making I noted earlier. At this point, the legislature and the governor should find themselves asking “why would we not?” Literally, why would they not?
The governor may not fill up her tank daily anymore, but every member of the legislature certainly does. They are the ones that raised the gas tax so they are the ones that must take the first action. The timing is right, the need is real, the funds to do so are here … the only question that remains to be asked is simply: why would they not?
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.