“I’m opposed to the gas tax increase,” State Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville) told WWTN 99.7 FM talk show host Dan Mandis on Wednesday in an exclusive interview.
“Looking towards the future, you’ve formally filed paperwork to run for governor. You went on a 34-stop listening tour across Tennessee. Tell me what you found out,” Mandis asked Green.
“There’s just a stack of ideas that people have on how to make Tennessee better. It’s just awesome,” Green said.
“One of the things they said they don’t want is a gas tax or a diesel tax increase. Tennesseans were pretty strong about that everywhere I went,” he added.
“Now I’ve seen the polls, but I know what my anecdotal evidence is. Everywhere I went people were like ‘How dare you raise taxes in the face of a $1.8 billion surplus! You’ve overtaxed us $1.8 billion and you want more!’ And I’ve got to tend to agree with them,” the former Army doctor said.
“It doesn’t make any sense that we would tax more in the face of such a large surplus,” he added.
“So, I’m opposed to the gas tax increase,” the future candidate for governor declared:
There were certain aspects of the governor’s plan, particularly the tax cuts, you know he wants to go to a single sales factor, which I tried to pass in 2015, I couldn’t get him [the governor] to support that, but we pushed hard in 2015 to get that done.
Now we find out, well, we’ve lost some companies to other states because we didn’t do it.
Well, glad you’re at the party now, let’s get that done, but let’s not do it in the face of a tax increase.
“We had a big gas tax forum here on the airwaves of WWTN during my show, and I think we had several dozen folks here and after two hours of presentation, really nobody was convinced that the gas tax was, or is, a good idea,” Mandis said.
“Do you think it’s going to pass– the governor’s tax plan?” Mandis asked.
“The chances of a very complex bill like that passing are always very low,” Green answered.
“I know there are a lot who don’t want to see a gas tax increase, especially a diesel tax increase because it impacts the delivery of all the goods to market, all that’s going to do is elevate the price of everything else
“Most people are pretty much opposed to those. I don’t give it a lot of chances, no,” Green concluded of the gas tax.
While he opposes the gas tax increase as a means of financing new road construction, Green was emphatic there is a need for greater funding of roads:
We’ve got to invest in roads. We definitely have to leverage our geographic location, which is within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the nation’s population.
It’s an asset. Our geographic location is an asset.
Let’s build roads, but let’s use some surplus money
If vehicles are going to just keep getting more and more efficient, well that just means if this is our only way of funding roads then we’re just going to be raising the taxes every few years.So let’s find another way.
I love using sales tax on the things that ride on the roads like tires or the cars themselves.
Some of the sales tax from cars can easily be directed towards maintaining and growing our road infrastructure.
Mandis then asked Green if he had “any thoughts on which of those alternate plans [to fund more road construction] he favors.”
“Right now of the ones I’ve seen I like the Hawk Plan,” Green said, referring to the plan advanced by Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) and supported by Majority Leader State Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin), which finances new road construction by re-allocating one quarter of one percent of the sales tax to roads, as opposed to the general fund.
“It seems like a pretty good bill,” Green said.
“What I’ve heard about that bill, I could support that bill,” he added.
Green also told Mandis about his bill to stop state funding to any city in the state of Tennessee that declares itself a sanctuary city.
Green said his bill could be considered “a pre-emptive attack” on any city—Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville are rumored to be contemplating such an action—that declares itself a sanctuary city.
Green noted that former State Rep. Joe Carr had sponsored a bill that became law that prohibited any city in the state from declaring itself a sanctuary city.
“This basically takes it a step further,” Green said.
“I got the idea from Gov. Greg Abbot of Texas,” he noted. “We’re just going to remove the state funding,” he added, if any city were to make such a declaration.
Green, a veteran who served as a medical doctor in the Army and made three trips to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, also discussed several bills he is proposing to help returning veterans.
Green closed the interview by talking about the 2018 race for governor.
He told Mandis he his campaign for governor’s “formal kick off– Keep Calm and Go Green”—will take place “sometimes after the session.”
“We know there’s going to be four or five people in this race” in the Republican primary, Green added.
Green became the first major candidate to enter the 2018 race for Governor early last month, though he will not make a formal announcement until after the current session of the General Assembly adjourns, pushing the date out to April or May.
“Sen. Mark Green will run for governor in 2018 and has hired President-elect Donald Trump’s state director to lead his gubernatorial bid,” the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle reported on January 5.
“At least three other Republican state legislators are eyeing a run for governor next year – House Speaker Beth Harwell, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville and Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville. On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says he’s also considering a run for governor,” Tom Humphrey reported at his “Humphrey on the Hill” column, now published at The Tennessee Journal.