Ramsey: We need to do something about state gas tax

In a speech to Chamber of Commerce officials, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey called for some sort of action to boost revenue for the state’s highway construction program, reports the Kingsport Times-News. He’s looking to Gov. Bill Haslam for leadership on the matter and, apparently, so are some other legislators attending the function.

Ramsey pointed out the gas tax hasn’t kept up with fuel-efficient vehicles that are responding to tougher federal fuel standards.

He illustrated the situation by telling the group he just traded his old 2007 sports utility vehicle and got a 2015 model.

“I was getting 28 miles a gallon,” Ramsey said of the gas mileage on the new vehicle. “So I’m paying less than half (the tax) than I was for the same number of miles. We’re not keeping up with technology … That’s the problem.”

Ramsey said lawmakers are looking to Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration for a plan that could be “some increase” in the gas tax but also look at other measures to get revenue from electric vehicles and vehicles using natural gas.

“Why does government have to always be in a crisis before we address something?” he asked. “We’re not in a crisis now … That’s not going to be the case three years from now.”

Ramsey added he would like to see old road projects in his senatorial district resurrected — including the Airport Parkway project in Sullivan County that was put on hold in 2002.

“None of that is going to happen with the current funding model … I’m all for trying to find a solution to this,” he insisted.

…State Rep. Mike Harrison, who chairs the House Finance Subcommittee, agreed “something has to happen” with the road funding situation.

“I agree we can’t continue with a 1989 funding mechanism,” Harrison, R-Rogersville, said.

While state Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, did not weigh in on where the state’s road funding system should be headed, state Rep. Timothy Hill did.

Hill, R-Blountville, sits on the House Transportation Committee, and said a comprehensive approach needs to be taken.

“Where that leads remains to be seen … We will get pressure from all sides,” he told the chamber gathering.