Haslam, Ramsey on gas tax polling

Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey comments collected by Richard Locker on a Vanderbilt University poll showing showing 66 percent of voters surveyed would support a 2-cents-per-gallon increase in the state gas tax, 54 percent would go along with a 8 cents. But support falls to 46 percent at 15 cents.

Haslam…. hasn’t decided whether to ask lawmakers to increase highway funding in the 2016 legislative session that convenes Jan. 12 or continue the discussion and preparation of a detailed road plan for another year….But the governor said the Vanderbilt Poll findings are encouraging.

“I think people out there get it, the need. If you actually tie that (a tax increase) to specific projects I think you’d even see more positive reaction to it. So part of our mission right now is to complete the road plan that everybody can agree on and hopefully that will be encouragement to our legislators that this is something that people really do want to see happen,” he said.

Would an 8-cent increase be adequate?

Haslam: “We need to decide what we’re going to do but sure 8 cents would make a difference. We have a list of $6 billion worth of projects approved but not funded, but every cent gets that many more projects done. It’s also important to note that of the (fuel tax) money, 40 percent goes to cities and counties for their transportation needs. So that money helps local governments. It’s not just additional money for the state.”

Would the poll results cause him to consider going to the Legislature in 2016?

Haslam: “To me that’s encouraging news — that people get the connection between what they pay when they fill up and the roads and bridges that they want to make certain stay usable. So I do think that will be new and interesting information to folks.”

Considering that public support for a gas tax decreases as the proposed rate increases, would an 8-cent increase be the upper level of what he might ask for?

Haslam: “Our task over the next few weeks and months is to try to figure out how we can define that for people, to say that with each additional cent or 2 cents how much deeper in the project list can we go.”

…Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, says he wants action in the upcoming legislative session but isn’t expecting it.

“I’m all for a solution on this. If we increase the gas fuel tax 10 cents or whatever, brought diesel fuel up to that and worked on something on electric vehicles and liquid-propane gas vehicles, it would solve our problems for another 20 years,” Ramsey told reporters. “It’s so ironic that gas will go up 10 cents in a week and nobody says a word.

“One thing that really frustrates me is when people say we can’t do this because of an election year. If people use that as an excuse, they ought not be serving in the Legislature,” he said…. “The governor has not come up with a proposal. I wish he would and get it out of the way.