Do you support a state gas tax hike?

Johnson City Press • Jan 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to ask the Tennessee General Assembly to raise the state’s gas tax to pay for new bridge and road construction projects.

Tennesseans now pay 21.4 cents in state taxes for every gallon of gas they pump. That’s in addition to the 18.5 cents per gallon they pay to the federal government.

Haslam traveled across the state last year to drum up support for raising Tennessee’s gas tax, which has not been increased since 1989. Unless the fuel tax is increased, the governor says work on new bridges and highways could come to a grinding halt.

According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the state’s current gas tax yields more than $665.7 million per year. While that amount sounds like a lot, it falls far short of that needed to fund road projects.

Haslam says additional revenue is needed to fund $6 billion in needed transportation projects across the state. The governor has not yet said what amount of a tax increase he will ask lawmakers to approve, but a statewide poll conducted by Vanderbilt University may offer some guidance.

When Vanderbilt pollsters asked Tennesseans if they would pay (2, 8 or 15) cents more per gallon on gas “if it meant that more could be spent on projects to improve roads and bridges,” 66 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to support a 2-cent increase, 54 percent backed an 8-cent hike and only 46 percent were willing to support a 15-cent increase to the tax.

Some leaders of the Republican-controlled state General Assembly say they do not like the idea of hiking the gas tax. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has urged his colleagues to keep an open mind on a gas tax hike. Ramsey also says the General Assembly should explore other funding options to help meet the state’s growing transportation infrastructure needs.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported last week that two state lawmakers have offered alternatives to raising the gas tax. One bill, filed by state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, proposes adding $150 to the state’s registration fee for electric cars and $75 to the cost for hybrid cars. Electric cars now avoid the state’s gas tax entirely while hybrid vehicles use a mix of gas and electricity.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, has introduced a bill to divert the state’s 7 percent sales tax revenue collected from the sale of tires into the highway fund.

We want to hear from you. Would you support a hike to the state gas tax to fund road construction?

Send your comments to [email protected] Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.

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