Propane measure on ballot

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, May 27, 2010

Voters will notice a proposed Alabama constitutional amendment if they look to the right-hand column of their primary election ballots June 1.

The proposed amendment lets voters decide on whether to allow propane dealers to vote on collecting one-tenth of a one-cent fee on each gallon of propane sold in Alabama.

Known as the Affordable Fuel Amendment, it would allow the propane industry to levy a fee on itself.

The amendment gives the propane industry the authority to establish a check-off program and collect the assessment paid by propane retailers per gallon.

The program will be used to promote the propane industry through rebates to consumers on energy efficient appliances, rebates on regulators for consumer tanks and rebates to convert vehicles to run on propane. The money would also be used for educational programs in the propane industry.

Alabama Propane Gas Association executive director Lisa Fountain said the amendment is not a tax on the people of Alabama and that it will only benefit them. It will be paid solely by the propane industry.

“This amendment is actually going to help the propane industry establish a fund,” Fountain said. “This fund will be solely funded through our association members. It is not a tax. There is zero tax money that will go into this. It is not a state fund. It is not controlled or corrupted by the state. It is literally a fund that we unfortunately have to get an amendment passed to get it created.”

Retailers will be charged at the time of the purchase from the wholesaler. If a dealer purchases 100 gallons from a wholesaler, the assessment is 10 cents. Fountain said a typical consumer uses roughly 400 gallons per year, which translates to 40 cents for that consumer, which is paid by the dealer.

This would raise $120,000-$150,000 per year, Fountain said.

The state, as a pass-through agency, will collect the fee from distributors. Fountain said the amendment would make it a level playing field in the industry.

State Rep. Jimmy Martin thinks the amendment is needed, stressing that it was requested by the propane association.

“It puts them in control of the associate members and anyone handling propane,” Martin said. “They’re asking for it because it’s patrolling their association. It’s not something that will cost the taxpayers. It will not add anything to the cost of propane fuel.”

Martin said he will vote “yes” on the amendment, though he’s unsure of how the vote will eventually turn out.

“A lot of people will either vote no or just not vote,” he said. “If people take time to read it, it’s something that I think would put better control on the association and their actions.”

Fountain is also unsure about how Alabamians will vote.

“I just don’t know,” she said. “We’re not an industry that has a lot of money to advertise, and it takes a lot of money to advertise a statewide amendment. If people take the time to get educated and understand it’s not a tax and look at the benefits, I think they’ll vote for it. People who have the negative perception of government, will vote against it without even knowing what it is.”