‘For a few dollars more’ may be Tennessee road funding argument

(Photo: WKRN)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As state lawmakers head back into session this week for a series of organizational meetings before tackling legislation, one of the overriding issues that affects every driver in Tennessee will be the debate about raising the state’s gas tax.

Multiple sources in and around the Tennessee State Capitol believe the argument will be framed that “for a few dollars more” a month from a typical driver, Tennessee can establish a new long-term funding mechanism for building and repairing Tennessee roads which state transportation officials say now has $11 billion in need.

According to the sources, discussions have focused on raising the gas tax 9-cents per gallon from its current 21-cents a gallon, but Governor Bill Haslam may be backing off a bit for a slightly lower amount, even though the gas tax has not been raised since the late 1980’s.

Several other transportation-related areas will also be included in either increased taxes or fees as part of the overall expanded road funding plan.

These include a 13-cent increase in the state’s diesel tax, along with yearly fees for electric car owners or those who might power a vehicle with natural gas.

Those fees would likely be somewhere $100 to $200 annually.

Some familiar with the framework of the plan say the idea is to tap everyone who uses the roads to pay a little more for the funding plan.

This would also include added fees to rental cars and yearly vehicle registration depending on the car you drive.

Governor Bill Haslam has long planned an announcement on the gas tax increase, but it’s likely now that it will come sometime before his annual State of the State address in late January.

The issue could be a tough sell in a year when state revenue figures show a nearly $2 billion surplus, but supporters say that money should not be used for what would an annual re-occurring funding mechanism.