State Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) told Ralph Bristol on 99.7 FM WWTN’s Nashville Morning News on Tuesday that Gov. Haslam’s proposal to increase the gas tax by 7 cents per gallon to fund road construction is dead-on-arrival in the State House of Representatives.
“I don’t believe the 7 cents gas tax is going to go anywhere,” Pody told Bristol.
“To be clear, you don’t think the governor’s full proposal, as is, will make it out of the House?” Bristol asked.
“If it’s going to say gas tax on cars, I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere,” Pody responded.
“Is that a survey or a hunch?” Bristol pressed the question further with Pody, who has his own alternative to the governor’s proposal.
“If I have to run my proposal [through the Transportation Subcommittee], I have to know where the votes are,” Pody told Bristol.
“I don’t think the votes are there for the governor’s proposal,” Pody said.
“Right now I don’t think the governor’s plan would have the votes to get out of the House,” Pody said.
Pody praised Gov. Haslam for bringing the issue of road tax funding up for consideration by the General Assembly.
“I’m glad that the governor is actually bringing this forward because it’s something we have to do,” Pody told Bristol, adding:
It’s just how we’re going to fund it that’s the question.
The Hawk Plan. . . just taking a quarter percent of that [sales tax] money and moving it directly over [to fund roads] [is one alternative].
However, there’s a lot of people that feel it should be more of a user plan, and those that use the roads should be the ones paying for it.
I’m looking at possibly doing an amendment on one of the plans that are out there, and just saying we’re going to take the current taxes that are already being assessed for products and services used for cars, and move that dedicated to the roads and that should equal the same amount of money, $280 to $290 million [needed for road construction].
That would mean that for example, you buy a tire, you’re already paying a sales tax on that tire, make that go to the road fund. It’s not a new tax just redirecting it.
Everybody that buys tires whether its electric gas car, natural gas car, or a regular car, is going to pay that same tax.
We could do tires oil changes auto repairs whatever the amount we would have to do to get to that same $290 million.
“Would you have to specifically have those companies that sell those products send that tax to a different place than they do now?” Bristol asked.
“The Department of Transportation already takes a portion of their money and puts it into the general fund,” Pody responded.
“This money for the gas tax right now, not 100% of the money goes to the roads,” the Lebanon Republican noted.
“Yes, those companies would have to say this is for the zipcode they’re operating [their businesses],” Pody confirmed.
Bristol pressed Pody further on the numbers of his proposal.
“Are you fairly certain there is enough product sold that would meet that definition that would equal the amount that everyone is talking about, about $280 milion a year?” Bristol asked.
“We’re pretty close to that number already,” Pody answered, adding he was confident they would get to that number.
Bristol then posed a basic question about ease of tax administration.
“Why not just simplify the process and do what the Hawk Plan does and say the sales tax on those products [like tires and other items used to operate and maintain vehicles] is equal to at least one quarter of one cent of this whole, so we’ll just transfer that quarter of a percent [from the general fund to road construction] …without specifically making everybody go through the extra motions?” Bristol asked.
“I would much rather just do it [that way] with the Hawk Plan and not have to do it this way,” Pody agreed.
“There are some people, however, who are saying we have to have a user fee,” he added.
“To satisfy that [objection] you would draw a more specific statutory link between the two,” Bristol said.
“That’s correct, ” Pody confirmed.
Pody noted that the current differential between taxes paid on gas (21 cents per gallon) versus diesel (18 cents per gallon) does not make much sense, and equalizing those rates might make some sense:
We could raise $22 million if we just made the diesel and the gas tax the same.
That way we’re not raising the gas taxes on cars just bringing the diesel tax up to the gas tax.
Why should the diesel care have to pay less in tax than a regular car?
Trucks are harder on the road, yet they’re paying less per gallon than a regular car would . . .
They by far are harder on the roads than regular cars are.
Even if they just made them [the gas and diesel tax] the same, it would raise $22 million.
Pody noted that he has spoken frequently with State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee, where the various road funding bills will first come for consideration, about how and when those proposals will be considered.
“I talked to her several different times, State Rep. Weaver. She’s going to actually hear all the proposals [in the Transportation Subcommittee]basically at the same time; not vote on them that day but actually give everybody a chance to make their case,” Pody said.