Tenn. gas tax talks increase as road project funding prospects look bleak

Gov. Bill Haslam stressed to reporters after an economic development announcement in Murfreesboro last week that he has yet to make any specific recommendations about how to begin tackling the $6 billion backlog.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There’s more talk of increasing gas taxes to pay for maintaining Tennessee roads. Highway projects around Tennessee, including some busy roads in East Tennessee, are getting pushed back because of worries about long-term federal funding.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has 200 projects on hold, some even dating back as far as 30 years. These projects cost $8 billion to finish and as a result, there is concern that half of TDOT’s federal funding may dry up next year.

Kenn Davin, who just got back in town from Florida, says he travels more than 50,000 mile a year and a possible increase in fuel tax would be a big burden to him

“I’d rather see no tax increase. I don’t think they need a tax increase. I think they need to appropriate the money they already have instead of using it for other things instead of roads,” he said.

State Rep. Ryan Haynes
State Rep. Ryan Haynes

A push for Tennessee’s first tax increase on gas in a quarter century is getting a closer look by Republican legislators who have historically opposed tax hikes of any sort.

“We have not raised the gas tax since 1989. Obviously, goods to build roads cost more than today than they did since 1989. Cars are more fuel efficient today. People don’t spend as much in gas as they once did, so therefore, that revenue has continued to decline. And you do have to maintain our roads, and I think most citizens understand that. They say, ‘Hey, we want to pay for good roads and good bridges,'” said State Rep. Ryan Haynes.

Haynes says the money raised from a tax increase on fuel will only be used for roads. .

“The number one issue that I hear from citizens are road programs that need to be fleshed out more, improvements to roads. We have deteriorating infrastructure, and that’s very disheartening to hear as a representative. And I think that’s the one thing that when we run for office we all say we want to create jobs and I think building roads is one of the best ways we can do that,” said Haynes.

It’s not yet known how much the tax would increase because there hasn’t been a proposed legislation presented yet; it’s all just discussion. However, a bill could possibly come as early as the upcoming legislative session, which starts this month.

There’s also talk right now about hiking the federal gas tax. If it happens, it would be the first time since 1993 when gas was barely over a dollar a gallon.

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