Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Gas Tax Hike In Tennessee? Eventually, Says The Governor

Nashville Public Radio, Dec. 3, 2014 - Governor Bill Haslam says there’s no way around hiking the state’s gas tax some time in the future. The tax, which hasn’t increased since 1989, is not keeping up with the rising cost of building and maintaining Tennessee’s roads and bridges.

Improved fuel efficiency standards and the rise of hybrid and electric cars are a boon to the environment, but the governor says they hurt gas taxes. What’s more, Haslam says federal transportation funding is always uncertain, noting that Congress’ temporary fixes on the federal highway fund make it tricky to plan long-term projects.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer echoed the worry over the unpredictability of federal support, calling the situation “disconcerting” during TDOT’s budget meeting on Wednesday.

Coupled with less-than-stellar state gas tax revenue, Schroer says TDOT is focusing almost exclusively on maintenance, instead of expanding the state’s road infrastructure. (link)

My Comment: I know the default position of many Republicans and especially those who identify as tea party is to always oppose any increase in tax or any new tax.  Most of the time, I am with you.  I know there is a lot of government waste and inefficiency especially in Federal and local government. However, my perception is that the State of Tennessee is pretty lean. Sure, there is still some pork and examples of waste, but the state has cut the sales tax and the Hall income tax and cut personnel and cut agencies. Things we want do cost money.  The gas tax has not increased in 25 years.  If we want to continue to have one of the best interstate systems in the country, we need to spend money.  There are bottlenecks where there needs to be road improvements and there are places were we need new interchanges.

Now, I think in the past TDOT did waste a lot of money.  Some years ago the State adopted a policy that every county would be connected to the interstate by a four-lane highway.  I have been on some of this rural highways and they are almost empty. The thought behind this was that we need highways to each county so companies will consider bringing industry to these rural counties. Frankly, I think we should have left the rural counties rural and concentrated on a few urban centers but no county, I suppose, wants to be told they are going to be left behind.  In any event what is done is done and the money spend on building all of these rural highways is money down the drain.  The question facing us now is, do we want to let our highway system deteriorate and not have highway improvements or do we want to fund a good highways system?

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