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Commission supports Haslam’s gas tax plan

At the Anderson County Commission meeting last Monday, Commissioners discussed passing a resolution in support of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s proposed gas tax bill currently making its way through the Tennessee Legislature.

The proposal approved by the House and the Senate Transportation Committees two weeks ago calls for a tax increase of six cents per gallon on gasoline and 10 cents per gallon on diesel fuel.

Haslam’s original plan was seven cents per gallon on gas and 12 cents on diesel. Both tax increases will be phased in over a three-year period, officials said Monday.

“Last week in Nashville the House and the Senate passed a bill to increase the gas tax, to back it up six cents, which would be a four cent increase the first year it goes into effect,” Anderson County Roads Superintendent Gary Long said.

“I would like to ask our local representatives to get behind this bill and adopt the same bill and hopefully pass it and put it into action by July 1.

With this money, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will have money to build our road projects,” Long told Commissioners.

Haslam proposed the transportation plan with the hopes it would raise approximately $355 million for the state transportation fund, city and county governments, and go towards paying for transportation infrastructure statewide (bridge and road projects).

Part of the proposal includes offsetting the gas and diesel fuel tax increases by decreasing the sales tax on food from five percent to four percent.

The bill’s supporters argue this is not a tax increase, but a tax cut because the food tax is being decreased to offset the increase in the gas tax.

Lt. Governor Randy McNally, of Oak Ridge, is one such supporter.

McNally issued a statement on a Facebook post last Tuesday, shortly after the Senate Transportation Committee approved the amended version of Haslam’s bill, endorsing the plan.

“Those who still refer to this plan as a tax increase are either being disingenuous or are misinformed. The amended plan now under consideration is not a tax increase in any shape, form or fashion. It is not even ‘revenue-neutral.’ It is a clear and undisputed tax cut,” asserted McNally in his public endorsement.

Long told Commissioners Monday he saw the gas tax as a “win-win situation for the county” because of the increased funding it is going to provide to covering funds for much needed transportation projects and improvements in the county.

Long urged Commissioners to pass a resolution supporting the bill and send it to state legislators.

“The state of Tennessee got to the point where they had basically cancelled just about all of the road improvements and we finally got to the point we really didn’t have enough money just for basic road maintenance. This is money that’s actually going to fix the problem long-term,” stated Dist. 6 Commissioner Steve Mead, who was in favor of the resolution supporting the bill.

Dist. 8 Commissioner Myron Iwanski made a motion to ask the Commission Chairman to work with the County Law Director to write a resolution and have it sent to state legislators as soon as possible.

Dist. 7 Commissioner Jerry Creasey amended the motion to include Legislative Committee Chair Steve Mead in the resolution writing process.

Anderson County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the motion as amended.