Senate Transportation Committee chairman plans summer gas tax hearings

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.)-Senate Transportation and Safety Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, (R-Shelbyville), said (last week) that he will hold transportation funding hearings around the state in late summer and early fall to discuss Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure funding dilemma with an eye toward promoting reform legislation next year.

“These hearings are to discuss a comprehensive solution to fund the long-term needs of Tennessee’s transportation system,” Tracy said. “I am looking forward to having this conversation with the governor, my colleagues and other Tennesseans who care about the future of our transportation infrastructure. And I am looking forward to working with the General Assembly next year to find a solution to our transportation funding problems.”

Citing a recent list sent to members of the General Assembly from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tracy referred to the more than $6 billion in unfunded road and bridge projects. State fuel fees were last raised in 1989.

Tracy noted that, in the last 25 years, “our population has grown, traffic is up and we’ve seen the introduction of new technologies for vehicles that no longer need gas or diesel fuel.”

“We are very near the tipping point where the cost is going to be too high and the backlog too great. If that happens, business and industry are going to choose someplace other than Tennessee to bring new jobs. Existing businesses may begin to explore options for moving to another state,” Tracy said of the backlog’s impact.

To address it, he pointed to a recent report from the Tennessee comptroller’s office that listed several options for reforming transportation funding, including:

– Increasing state user fees on diesel and gasoline

– Increasing and equalizing user fees on alternative fuels

– Indexing fuel user fees to inflation

– Vehicle registration renewal fee increases on cars and trucks

– Enacting a highway user fee for electric vehicles

– Creation of high-occupancy toll lanes

Tracy emphasized that all ideas need to be explored.

“It is my intention to spend a significant portion of my time while the General Assembly is out of session to gather solutions as to how we can solve this problem,” he said.

Dates and venues for the hearings will be announced this summer once details are in place.