Gov. Haslam will “hold a town hall meeting on proposed gas tax increase” on Monday, February 20, at 6:00 pm in Winchester, the Franklin County seat, the Winchester Herald Chronicle reports:
Gov. Bill Haslam will be in Franklin County Monday to discuss his plan for a 7 cent tax increase per gallon on gasoline and 12 cents on diesel to go toward roadway improvements.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Franklin County Annex Building [located at 855 Dinah Shore Blvd. in Winchester, 90 miles southeast of Nashville].
The purpose of the event, which is open to the public, is to provide a forum on a plan focusing exclusively on increasing much-needed funding to repair and maintain safe highways and bridges throughout Tennessee. Haslam has also proposed that sales tax be reduced on food products.
Curiously, the governor’s website makes no mention of the event, which the Herald Chronicle calls “a town hall” in its headline, but which sounds more like another stop in the governor’s promotional tour for his proposed 7 cents a gallon gas tax.
Typically, a town hall on a particular public policy topic is an open discussion of all possible solutions on that topic.
One question Gov. Haslam is likely to hear from the audience if Monday’s event is, in fact, a true town hall, is this:
When you spoke at Smith County last week promoting the gas tax increase, what exactly did you mean when you said “The only reason government exists at all is to buy things for the people that they can’t buy for themselves.”?
The indication from the Herald Chronicle, however, is that this event is scheduled to promote Gov. Haslam’s gas tax increase only, and will not provide a full discussion opportunity to the proponents of alternative plans, such as The Hawk Plan, which funds road construction by reallocating 0.25 percent of the general sales tax for that purpose.
No opponents of the governor’s proposal–such as Andy Ogles, a representative from Americans for Prosperity, which opposes the gas tax increase proposal–are listed as participants in the event.
In contrast, Ogles was invited to the 99.7 FM WWTN Gas Tax Town Hall, which was held earlier this month.
Indeed, the only other participants in Monday’s events listed in the Herald Chronicle article–State Rep. David Alexander (R-Winchester), County Mayor Richard Stewart, Highway Commission Chair Chuck Tipps of District II & VII, Alexander, Tennessee County Highway Officials Association Executive Director Rodney Carmichael–are all vigorous supporters of the governor’s gas tax increase proposal.
Alexander, for instance, is listed as the contact person for the event.
“For additional information [on the governor’s event], call State Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, at 1-800-449-8366, Ext. 18695,” the Herald Chronicle reports.
County Mayor Richard Stewart, Highway Commission Chair Chuck Tipps of District II & VII, Alexander, Tennessee County Highway Officials Association Executive Director Rodney Carmichael and other government officials acknowledge the need for appropriate funding to maintain safe roads and bridges.
“I really think that we need it, because if we don’t come up with a long-range (funding) plan, (all the roads and bridges in the county) will be in bad shape.” Highway Commission Chair Chuck Tipps told the Herald Chronicle:
Carmichael, who said he favors the IMPROVE Act, put the current cost of road maintenance in perspective.
“The biggest challenge for us in county government, in the highway departments, is we have to have funding,” he said. “We cannot maintain the same level of services for the people of Franklin County, or Marion County or Coffee County — without additional revenue. It just doesn’t work that way.”
He added, “To pave a mile of road right now — asphalt a mile of road — (costs) about $100,000.”
Two recent polls indicate widespread opposition to Gov. Haslam’s gas tax increase proposal.
Last week, a poll of registered Republican voters showed they oppose the proposed gas tax increase by a 53 percent to 28 margin.
On Tuesday, a survey released by the NFIB showed that small business owners in Tennessee oppose Gov. Haslam’s gas tax increase proposal by a 55 percent to 40 percent margin.
The Tennessee Star will be in attendance on Monday and will report on the evening’s discussion.