Haslam disagrees gas plan will fail to make it out of subcommittee

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The plan, which is officially known as the Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy or IMPROVE ACT was unveiled on Wednesday. Karen Kraft / The Tennessean

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks to a Republican gathering in Nashville on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.(Photo: Erik Schelzig / AP)

Gov. Bill Haslam disagrees with House Majority Leader Glen Casada‘s assertion that the governor‘s gas tax proposal could fail to make it out of a House subcommittee.

“I don‘t think that‘s … ,” Haslam trailed off to reporters while shaking his head Monday afternoon after making his gas tax pitch and discussing other issues in front of about 100 people inside the Nashville law office of Waller.

At a roundtable event Friday, Casada said he thought Haslam‘s plan, which calls for a 7-cent per gallon hike on gasoline while also calling for tax cuts in other ways, would fail in the House transportation subcommittee with a 5-3 vote.

Haslam pushed back against the rumor that some lawmakers have been hearing about the potential for the gas tax plan to be sent straight to the House transportation committee rather than risking it being halted in the subcommittee.

“This is an important issue that needs to have the discussion of the entire House at some point, but we‘ve never ever had a conversation about skipping a subcommittee,” he said.

In general, Haslam said he disagreed with the notion that his gas tax proposal is similar in ways to Insure Tennessee.

“There‘s nobody that doubts that we need infrastructure improvements in Tennessee — (or) hardly anyone does,” he said.

Haslam‘s health care proposal failed during a special session in 2015. Attempts to revive the legislation during regular session were short lived.

The governor, who said his gas tax bill will be introduced sometime this week, added that he is looking forward to lawmakers having the conversation about how to address the state‘s infrastructure needs.

As he has in recent days, Haslam once again questioned the idea of taking money out of the state‘s general fund to pay for infrastructure, an idea that Rep. , R-Greeneville, proposed last week while making his alternative proposal.

“How much can the general fund bear?” the governor asked rhetorically. “You don‘t want to put us in a position where several years down the road people are going to regret it.”

Hawk‘s plan called for using a portion of existing revenue generated through the sales tax instead of increasing the gas tax.

During his lunchtime remarks, Haslam said this year would be the best time to come up with a fix to the state‘s infrastructure needs. Haslam said if lawmakers wait on the issue until next year, they will face the prospect of having to vote on a tax increase during an election year.

Haslam warned that with a new governor entering office in 2019, it could be “five or six years” before lawmakers and the executive branch are able to make another serious push to address the overall issue.

Although Haslam‘s bill has yet to be filed, it must be introduced before the filing deadline Thursday.

Reach Joel Ebert at  or and on Twitter .

 

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