Vote still needed before Gov. Haslam signs gas tax hike
NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
The Tennessee State House and Senate approved a plan Wednesday to raise the gas tax by six cents over the next three years.
The plan would also raise diesel by 10 cents during that period to help pay for road improvements across the state.
"The reality is our state is facing some real transportation infrastructural problems," said Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville.
The Republican sponsored plan only passed the House with the help of 23 Democrats like Clemmons.
Even in the Senate, some Republicans felt it is the wrong time to pass a gas tax. Some fear it will hurt lower income residents more than they're helped by the tax cuts that come with the plan.
The plan also cuts business and food taxes and more quickly phases out the Hall Tax. Some supporters even promoted the plan as a bigger tax cut than tax hike.
Senator Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, didn't buy that argument.
"If you're poor and on government assistance, then you don't benefit from the sales tax decrease on food," Roberts said. "If you're buying your food on an EBT card, that's a tax exempt transaction."
Senator Mark Norris, R-Collierville, sponsored the bill, and he defended its tax cuts from criticism like Roberts's.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Norris said. "Everybody eats whether they're on assistance or not."
The Senate version also included a provision that provides property tax relief for veterans.
The House will need to approve that provision either Thursday or Monday before the bill goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.