Highway Committee holds off on resolution supporting gas tax hike

Published 9:03 am Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Members of the Highway Committee decided to take no action on a resolution to support Governor Bill Haslam’s proposed fuel tax increase after hearing public comments and debating whether the issue was “premature.”
To begin Monday afternoon’s Committee meeting, Chairman Mike Hill asked if any members of the public would like to speak about any item on the agenda. Joni Cannon, who resides in the county’s 3rd District, told the committee she would like to comment regarding the proposed resolution.
“There is no bill yet. We only have a proposal from the Governor he gave during his State of the State address,” Cannon said. “Why would you vote to support something that is not there yet?”
“We don’t know what will be in that bill,” she continued, adding it could contain any number of new taxes or other items the county would not support. “There could possibly be many things stacked on top of this.”
Cannon said perhaps the biggest issue she had with the proposed resolution comes at the document’s closing where it said “The Board of County Commissioners for Carter County, Tennessee, on behalf of the Carter County Road Superintendant, Carter County Highway Department, and the citizens of Carter County” request their State Representatives and State Senators to support the Governor’s proposal.
“I think if you pass this you will not be speaking for the citizens of the county,” Cannon said. “The proposal that is out there at this time does not have a lot of citizen support.”
“I encourage you to take a hard look at this and see if this is something you really want to support at this time,” she concluded.
Carter County Road Superintendant Roger Colbaugh said the increase in tax on gasoline and diesel would greatly benefit his department.
“I’m not saying I approve exactly what the governor is proposing, but we do need an increase in the tax on gasoline and diesel,” Colbaugh said. “Since it’s petroleum, by state law that money has to come back to the county.”
Colbaugh said his department is already operating on a deficit budget with more expenditures going out than there is money coming in. “We’re about $690,000 lacking,” Colbaugh said.
Additional revenue from an increase in the fuel tax would help cover the Highway Department’s budget shortfall as well as allow them to do more work to improve bridges and roads across the county, Colbaugh said.
While committee members voiced their agreement that the Highway Department would benefit from an increase in the fuel tax, some questioned whether or not it was too early to weigh in on the issue and also there was more to consider to the matter.
“You have to keep in mind that a gas tax is not just a gas tax,” Commissioner Buford Peters said. “One penny on that gas tax will affect your groceries. It will affect your energy costs. There are so many things down the line that it will have an effect on.”
Commissioner Kelly Collins said she has not yet made her mind up on the issue because there is still too much unknown, but there were portions of the proposal she thought were favorable.
“It doesn’t put all the pressure on property taxpayers as other taxes have, and that’s a plus in my opinion,” Collins said. “It’s not all bad in, in my opinion. Some of it is bad, but not all of it.”
Ultimately, the committee voted to take no action on the resolution until more is known about the proposal and a formal bill has been introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly.

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