State Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) told the Cleveland/Bradley Economic Development Council he listened to the WWTN Gas Tax Town Hall moderated by Ralph Bristol on the Dan Mandis Show on Thursday, the Cleveland Daily Banner reported.
“As I drove here, I was listening to a flame-throwing conservative talk show in Nashville, and I listen to it when I am up there and agree with most of what I hear,” Bell said.
“What was interesting was out of the whole panel they had, and they had an audience of 100 people as well, there wasn’t a single person–even those who oppose the plan–who did not say we had a need,” Bell said.
“So at least we’ve got opponents agreeing that we’ve got a need,” he added.
The Tennessee Star, which attended the event, reported that the studio audience size was about 20.
The panel at the Town Hall included three State Representatives, two State Senators, a representative of Gov. Haslam, Andy Ogles, executive director of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee, and former Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, representing the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee.
While all members of the panel, including gas tax increase proposal opponent Andy Ogles of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee, stated that there was a need for additional funding for road construction, several members of the audience disputed that claim.
As The Tennessee Star reported:
Speaking at the WWTN Gas Tax Town Hall, Ogles accepted the premise that Tennessee’s budget over the coming years should allocate $2 billion for highway improvement and new construction.
But Ogles said relying upon the increase in the gas and diesel tax as the only “user fee” mechanism to fund those improvements was not a stable long-term solution, since improvements in gas mileage and the possible rise of alternative means of powering vehicles would likely continue to limit the revenues from those sources to the state.
Anthony Horseman was one of several audience members who disputed that there was a need for additional funds for road construction.
“This is a sales pitch that I think is misinformation,” he said, explaining his opposition to the gas tax increase despite the support from most of the panelists.
“This is a tax which is going to penalize rural America. Most of the people that I’ve spoken to, and I’m very active in my community. . . are saying we’re not going to back anybody that backs this tax,” Horseman concluded.
Bell agrees with Horseman that a gas tax increase is unpopular.
Most of his constituents oppose any increase in the gas tax, he told the Cleveland/Bradley Economic Development Council.
“There’s a lot of different ideas being floated around,” Bell said of the gas tax proposals, “and I’m telling everyone who has contacted me – and right now my calls are running around 9 to 1 against the plan which is natural for any proposal–just hold your horses and keep your powder dry.”
“Even Gov. Haslam’s plan, as introduced, has not got unanimous support in the Senate,” he said.
“It will be two and a half months before we vote on anything, and there’s no telling what the proposal will look like then compared to where it’s at now,” he concluded.