Missing the mark on gas and food tax moratorium… ‘The point was to ask for some relief,’ said Acuff

Published 4:22 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
Carter County Commissioners sent a message they had no interest in a 90-day moratorium on gas and food taxes as a 20-4 vote killed the resolution initiated by District 1 Commissioner Dr. Robert Acuff.
Acuff said on Tuesday that the resolution came as a result of his constituents’ concern about eliminating taxes on food and he added the gasoline tax to add further relief.
“I had noticed other lawmakers across the state had talked about it and there are two states that have enacted a moratorium on gas last week. Georgia runs through the end of May and Maryland which ends in three weeks.
“Georgia’s gas tax is close to ours. We were not trying to do something that other states haven’t already done.”
If the resolution had passed, it would have been sent to the general assembly and the governor to consider.
Acuff cited a report from USA Today from two weeks ago that stated that seven out of 10 families are living paycheck to paycheck and said, “I would suspect in Carter County that number is even higher.”
“The point wasn’t to do away with the gas tax,” Acuff said. “The point was to ask for some relief.”
While Acuff’s resolution was supported by Sonja Culler, Randall Jenkins, and Thomas Proffitt, other commissioners said even a 90-day moratorium would do more harm than good in the long run for the county.
District 7 Commissioner Daniel McInturff said in his research a moratorium on gas taxes didn’t benefit the consumer.
“This happened in Georgia after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and if you read the articles and literature about it, the consumer never saw any savings,” McInturff said Tuesday afternoon. “I really do want to help people but if this gas tax moratorium is not going to truly help the consumers and what I mean by that is what they saw during this instance was the gas companies and gas stations never dropped the prices for the consumers — they just took the extra and put it in their pockets.
“I think there needs to be some type of rebate which has been mentioned at the federal level already, and if we are going to truly help the consumers it needs to go straight into their pocket instead of changing hands two or three times. We need to make sure the consumer is truly getting it.”
Commissioners were also concerned that such a moratorium on gas would impact the county’s highway and bridge projects and create a deficit in money should unforeseen circumstances such as floods occur.
Acuff said the state has avenues of providing relief, citing a Kingsport Times-News report last week that the state currently has a surplus of $2.15 billion from taxes and fees only seven months into the fiscal year with more coming with five months left in the fiscal year.
“Butch Eley, the finance director for the State of Tennessee, made a statement that they could put that money into a rainy day fund,” said Acuff. “Like I told the commission, there already is a rainy day in Carter County for some people. There needs to be some mechanism to return some of that money back to the people.”

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