Gas tax alternative worked on by Harwell may not have increase at pump

House Speaker Beth Harwell (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Many of us know every driver in Tennessee would soon pay more for gas under Governor Bill Haslam’s plan to build and repair roads, but many in his own party are now saying not so fast.

House Speaker Beth Harwell says she and other top lawmakers are working to develop an alternative that does not include a gas tax increase.

The governor wants a gas tax increase of a few cents per gallon while cutting grocery and business taxes, but Speaker Harwell’s office released this statement late Wednesday about the alternative:

“The speaker has been talking to Leader Hawk, Chairman Williams, and Speaker Pro Temp Curtis Johnson to develop an alternative that does not include a gas tax increase. The details have not been fully developed yet, but they are working diligently to offer something. She knows members have a desire to find a solution for our transportation and infrastructure funding, and is encouraged by that agreement. As Leader Hawk mentioned in committee, an amendment would be ready by next week’s Finance Committee meeting.”

When asked about it moments after leaving a meeting in the speaker’s office, Rep. Hawk chose his words carefully.

“My colleagues and constituents have asked that I look at ways to better fund transportation needs across the state utilizing existing resources, first,” the lawmaker told News 2.

In the language of state budgets, that means using surplus tax revenue that came in this year above projections, instead of the governor’s proposed tax cuts to fund the transportation projects.

House Republican Leader Glen Casada drew a deep breath when asked what’s ahead for the governor’s plan formally known as the IMPROVE Act.

“As we are today its hard to make a prediction,” said Rep.Casada. “There is a lot of work left to be down on the IMPROVE Act.

Rep. Hawk, like many people in Tennessee, has been riding the twists and turns of a new way to fund roads all session, but he’s always believed the house and Senate would come up with different plans that would be settled in what’s called a conference committee.

And with issues like the gas tax far from settled, it means state lawmakers are likely headed into May for one of their longest sessions in recent years.