Stung by Majority Leader Glen Casada’s (R-Franklin) embrace of the Hawk Plan to fund road construction through the reallocation of 0.25 percent of the current 7 percent state sales tax rather than his own gas tax increase proposal, Gov. Haslam scheduled an emergency call in to 99.7 FM WWTN’s Nashville Morning News with Ralph Bristol radio program for Thursday morning.
Casada went public in a big way earlier this week.
On Tuesday, he outlined his support for the Hawk Plan in an interview that was published, along with an accompanying YouTube video, early Wednesday morning at The Tennessee Star.
Then later on Wednesday morning, Casada appeared on 99.7 FM WWTN’s Nashville Morning News with host Ralph Bristol.
“The governor has a good idea, but I think Rep. Hawk has a great idea,” Casada told Bristol.
It was polite and respectful language, but the political impact of the message signaled a revolt by conservatives against Gov. Haslam’s gas tax increase proposal, very similar to the grassroots revolt back in 1999 when Gov. Sundquist’s proposal to impose a state income tax was crushed in a populist uprising.
Playing Devil’s Advocate, a role at which he excels, Bristol challenged Casada to take Gov. Haslam’s position in support of his increased gas tax proposal head on.
“The governor thinks that that overtaxes Tennesseans versus those who are traveling through our state,” Bristol said.
“I just doubt that because the overwhelming bulk of gasoline purchased in this state is by Tennesseans. And, a high minority of diesel fuel purchased in the state is by Tennesseans within Tennessee,” Casada responded.
“So, yes there would be some of the dollars, I think an extreme low number, would be paid by out-of-staters, in to building roads in Tennessee, but I think it would be a very small amount,” Casada continued.
“But you would concede . . . the Hawk Plan would reduce the overall share that out-of-state users pay for our roads and bridges?” Bristol asked.
“Not really, and here’s why — because we could take the dollars that are generated from David Hawk’s Plan and designate it strictly for the operation of TDOT [The Tennessee Department of Transporation]. And then take the gasoline money and the diesel tax money we collect and designate it strictly for road construction.
So then, the paradigm wouldn’t change at all, and we run the operations of the Department [of Transporation] via the sales tax collection, which is what we do with everything else.”
After his interview with Casada, Bristol shared some reactions with his audience, which may have caught the governor’s attention.
“It looks like the governor is going to get cooperation from his opponents, even on the Democrat side, that he’s proposed an even tax swap, an equal amount of cuts for tax increases,” Bristol told his audience.
“Barry Doss, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said in our town hall meeting that he regrets, and a lot of other lawmakers regret, passing that Hall Tax cut without paying for it when they passed the Hall Tax cut,” Bristol said, adding:
“Well, they may regret that, but we the people understood the Hall Tax cut to be a tax cut, period, not something that was going to be paid for with another tax increase over here,” he stated, adding:
We specifically rejected the idea of balancing the hall tax cut w a different tax increase. We did. And you passed it and the governor signed it.
And so, you cannot use the Hall Tax cut to balance any tax increase either when you did it or in years going forward.
Not allowed under the debate that we all had last year, the bill you passed after that debate, and the governor’s signature.
“If we have to, I’m completely content to just say no to everything right now. No to all ideas right now until the Hall Tax is completely phased in, and the legislature and the governor can drag that out another four years without increasing transportation funding, Bristol said.
“But if you want to increase transportation funding, and you’re promising to do it without an overall tax, increase then you’re going to have to come up with more tax cuts or a lower increase in the gas and diesel tax, or do what Rep. Casada and Rep. Hawk want to do, [which] is to use revenue that doesn’t represent either a tax cut or a tax increase,” Bristol concluded.
For the second time in two months, Gov. Haslam will once again be on Nashville’s Morning News with Ralph Bristol.
This time, he’ll be trying to defend a gas tax plan that is quickly sinking.
In Friday’s edition, The Tennessee Star will report on the Thursday morning conversation between Gov. Haslam and Bristol.