Tennessee lawmakers pass Haslam’s IMPROVE Act

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – After nearly six hours of debate and two votes Wednesday, portions of Governor Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act were passed in both the Tennessee House and Senate.

The House approved the bill on a 60-37 vote just a few hours before the Senate voted to approve it in a 25-6 vote.

Under the act, the state of Tennessee will see its first gas tax hike since the late 80s. The eventual increase will amount to 6 cents per gallon for gas and 10 cents per gallon for diesel.

While two slightly different versions have passed each chamber, everyone here knew the main debate would be in the house.

“I have had nine town hall meeting in Wilson County and, overwhelmingly, when people, when they understand IMPROVE Act, they choose IMPROVE Act,” said supporter Susan Lynn.

“I did not feel we needed to raise taxes when we had 2 billion surplus,” said Rep. Jerry Sexton.

Opponents like Rep. Sexton and supporters like Lynn debated the piles and piles of amendments for hours to add to or subtract from the governor’s proposal.

In the end, more than 60 percent of House members went along with the idea of raising the state’s gas tax to help fund new roads while also cutting in areas such sales taxes on groceries, corporate taxes on manufacturers, and the tax on earnings from stocks and bonds.

Nashville’s mayor Megan Barry also released a statement on how the act will give more funding for highway and bridge improvements across the state. Her statement read, in full:

This is a momentous day in Tennessee, as the General Assembly has voted to move our state forward on building the transportation infrastructure we need to remain competitive economically and improve the quality of life of our residents. I want to thank the entire Davidson County delegation for voting in support of Governor Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, which contained the critical local option component that will let voters determine the future of transit in the Nashville area.

“I want to especially thank Governor Haslam, House Transportation Chairman Barry Doss, Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh, the Middle Tennessee Mayors’ Caucus, and the many other groups and individuals who worked hard to pass this bill. While there is still work to be done to reconcile the legislation, I am confident that Governor Haslam will have the opportunity to sign this bill into law.

The IMPROVE Act now heads back to the House to resolve a difference over property tax relief for veterans.