Near locker-room language from governor about road funding problem

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – If you have ever been irate about Middle Tennessee traffic or about pothole-filled roads, it looks like your anger won’t be going away anytime soon.

This comes after Governor Bill Haslam Tuesday used near locker-room language to describe congressional inaction on passing a permanent highway funding bill to help states like Tennessee.

“Because no one has the courage to vote for one, so they pass temporary funding extensions,” said Governor Haslam to more than a few laughs in a Rutherford County crowd full of movers and shakers in local and state government.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

Speaking before a mostly friendly audience at the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, the governor was just as blunt with Tennessee lawmakers, who are mostly from his own Republican Party, and seemingly not interested in raising any kind of tax to pay for new roads to replace ones getting steadily worse with potholes or pieces of bridges falling apart.

“At some point you are going to have to bring in more revenue,” the governor told reporters afterwards. “I don’t say that lightly, because if we are not going to pass on as good a system of roads we got from our grandparents—it’s the path we are on now.”

The governor seemed to tailor his message to the audience, which included dozens of local or county executives responsible for the own budgets, or roads.

“Everyone says there has got to be some fluff in there, but what I have discovered when it comes to roads and bridges, it’s fluff when it’s in someone else’s county. When it’s in your county, this needs to happen tomorrow,” added the governor.

Within weeks the governor said he will once again roll out a list of road projects in lawmakers’ districts that won’t get built anytime soon without figuring out how to pay for it.

“While these will happen in the next 25 years, people need to know they won’t happen in the next five or six years,” Haslam said.

Sen. Jim Tracy, who chairs the State Senate Transportation Committee, said he has told the governor the votes aren’t there this coming session for any kind of increase in the state portion of the gas tax which has not been raised since 1989.

The governor asks what the alternatives are and says he has not heard any viable answers yet.

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