Andy Ogles, executive director of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee (AFP), unveiled the group’s alternative plan to finance Tennessee’s highway infrastructure improvements on Thursday, vigorously rejecting Gov. Haslam’s proposed 7 cents per gallon gas tax increase.
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.
Ogles said that if you except the idea of user fees then one such user fee could be vehicle fees at the time of a vehicle purchase or registration.
“I think there’s some math that is important to remember,” Ogles told the panel and studio audience.
“And the biggest number or numbers that you should remember is that currently, Tennessee has $1.8 billion in surplus. Now, there’s a lot of moving parts to this and talking about math on the radio is tough.”:
But a billion dollars of that is one time money. You can’t count it going forward so if you’re a road superintendent, you don’t know that that money is going to be there.
So I get that, right? So we can set that aside for the moment.
And maybe you set aside part of that money for capital projects whether it be buses for schools or mandatory bridge repairs, or something like that.
Those are expenses that you have to have that are one time.
“But the other issue that everyone has to understand is that we have almost a billion dollar surplus in recurring revenues,” Ogles added.
“Now, what does that mean?” Ogles asked.
“A billion dollars extra each year to the state of Tennessee and it’s projected to continue to grow,” Ogles said, adding:
So I think it is really unfair at a time when Tennessee is flush with cash, our economy is growing, that we’re asking taxpayers to pay more
End of the story. That’s it.
I think we really need to shift this conversation away from the gas tax and more importantly to this billion dollar surplus that is growing and growing.
And keep in mind, if we don’t curtail this growing revenue in the state of TN, that’s a billion dollars worth of government spending each and every year, going forward. So we go from a $37 billion budget to a $47 billion budget ten years from now.
AFP is conducting a statewide road trip to address the gas tax proposal, promoting its Tank the Tax campaign.
The next Tank the Tax event will be held in Columbia Tuesday evening.
“State Director Andy Ogles and Maury County Tea Party leader Tricia Hennessy Stickel will lead a lively discussion on what’s happening at gas pumps across the state,” the announcement on Facebook stated.
“Increasing the gas tax while we have a billion dollar + surplus is unacceptable!” will be the theme of the evening.