Knox mayor prods Haslam on gas tax ‘gorilla’

Excerpt from the News Sentinel report on the Knoxville stop for Gov. Bill Haslam’s road show:

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett got blunt.

“What we’re talking about, eventually, is a gas tax,” Burchett said. “Everybody knows that. It’s the gorilla in the room that nobody is addressing and the fact is, those eight (lawmakers) in the room will get hammered by their voting public to support something like that.”

Burchett said it was up to the Haslam administration to convince the public that a tax increase is necessary or the state will not only stall out on future projects, but struggle to maintain its existing infrastructure.

“You got to get more to the grass roots, past the chambers of commerce,” Burchett told the governor. “I know that’s difficult to do, but you can send your folks out, let them get beat on and then you can come in and smooth it over.”

…”There are a lot of different alternatives,” Haslam said. “Some people talk about toll roads, a vehicle miles traveled tax. There are a lot of different solution, but at the end of the day, we’re not going to pull anything out of the air that’s going to magically produce free roads for us.”

Haslam said he wanted to wrap up his 15-city tour before deciding what, if any, solution he would propose when the General Assembly convenes in January. His final stop came Thursday afternoon in Lenoir City.