On May 25th, the Henry County GOP and Republican Women held a “Meet & Greet” reception for their state Senator John Stevens. Rep. Tim Wirgau who also represents Henry County, showed up to participate even though he had not been invited as a speaker. According to an attendee, both Stevens and Wirgau talked “pretty much in lock-step agreement on all issues discussed at this meeting.”
Backing off of Boss Doss’ rebranded “Tax Cut Act of 2017” both Stevens and Wirgau talked extensively about the gas tax which they both supported, except now they were calling it Governor Haslam’s name for the tax increase – the “Improve Act of 2017”. Justifying their support for increasing taxes, both Wirgau and Stevens used what sounded like talking points provided to legislators that have to defend unpopular votes.
Stevens started off by saying that, “”the voters should thank us for passing this bill!” He then went into great detail explaining how transiting big rigs will pay Tennessee fuel tax regardless of which state they refuel in because the International Federal Tax Agreement law which apportions fuel tax according to miles traveled in a specific state using specific states’ rates, will result in the big rigs paying 40% of the total tax.
Using a talking point calculation from some unknown source, Stevens said that “it’s going to save tax payers $500,000.”
The assembled audience, overwhelmingly known to our tipster to not support paying more for their fuel, was polite enough not to ask whether that savings would be rebated to Tennessee taxpayers.
Stevens and Wirgau also discussed the issue of open versus closed primary elections with Wirgau giving the audience the money quote of the evening by disclosing that based on voting patterns in local, state, and federal elections, he had to run on the Republican ticket if he wanted to win! So he was asked the next logical question which was whether he intended to run again in 2018, to which he said, “yes, but this time he wanted to be in leadership” although he didn’t clarify what position that would mean.
(It has been widely rumored that he is planning to run for mayor of Henry County. When he ran for his legislative seat in 2014, Speaker Harwell had to come to his district and vouch for him. Wirgau said, “I feel very strongly she’ll be the first woman governor. She’s proven that leadership as Speaker of the House.” Harwell used Wirgau to displace long-standing conservative Rep. Matthew Hill as chairman of the Local Government Committee after Hill failed to support Harwell’s push on wine-in-grocery stores bill.)
It was also kindly passed on that “Sen. Stevens mocked The Tennessee Star saying, ‘all that stuff in The Tennessee Star was FAKE NEWS.’ Rep. Wirgau concurred with Sen.Stevens’ views and expanded on some of the points.”
Neither Stevens nor Wirgau, however, apparently were able to identify a single fact in any story reported by The Star that was in error.