NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s on-again, off-again gas tax hike could return this year. Maybe.
The governor spent much of last fall traveling across the state to draw attention to the state’s transportation funding needs, but said at the start of this year’s legislative session that he didn’t think there was enough support to take up the matter this year.
But the governor told reporters on Tuesday that he is having aides survey lawmakers about whether road project needs in their districts are pressing enough that they are now willing to get behind the state’s first gas tax increase since 1989. The governor has said the state has a more than $6 billion backlog of road projects.
“If people are saying, ‘I do want to do this in my district,’ then we’ll come back with a full plan,” Haslam said.
“If people say, ‘I’m interested in this, but I don’t want to do anything at all on addressing fuel tax,’ then we won’t do it,” he said.
Haslam said the scope of any road proposal would be based on lawmakers’ feedback.
“But that is going to happen eventually,” Haslam said. “We cannot keep doing what we’re doing now.”
Haslam’s efforts to bring up a gas tax discussion were opposed almost from the start by fellow Republicans like House Speaker Beth Harwell, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. But Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has been a strong proponent on moving forward with a plan to boost transportation funding this year.
Note: See also the Times-Free Press, which includes comments from anti-tax Andrew Ogles, president of Americans for Prosperity’s Tennessee chapter. Ogles says the administration is sending “mixed signals” and the organization will be alterting followers to the possibility of a late push for a tax increase this year.