Andrew Ogles, the Tennessee director of Americans for Prosperity, was in a glum mood Wednesday afternoon after Gov. Haslam’s gas tax plan seemed to get a boost forward. Earlier in the day, Ogles and his fellow tax opponents were more buoyant as they rallied around the costumed Gas Can Man and hoped for a more positive outcome.
The House Transportation Subcommittee voted in favor of Haslam’s transportation plan, albeit with an amendment that includes elements of an alternative proposal favored by opponents of the proposed tax increase. But Ogles believes that amendment will disappear once the plan is considered by the full House Transportation Committee, which Ogles says could happen sometime next week.
“My suspicion is they’ll strip that off,” Ogles said. “This was merely a Trojan horse to get it out of committee.”
Haslam wants to raise the tax on gas by 7 cents a gallon and for diesel, 12 cents a gallon. The current gas tax of 21.4 cents per gallon hasn’t changed since 1989. The alternative plan, known as the Hawk plan because it was put forward by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, proposes using existing sales tax revenue to pay for road improvements. The Hawk plan was killed by the subcommittee Wednesday though its ideas were carried forward in the amendment.
“There were folks in leadership complicit in making this happen,” he said. “The decks are stacked against us.”
About 150 people with Americans for Prosperity from around the state were at Legislative Plaza on Wednesday either attending the hearing or meeting with legislators. The conservative group promotes lower taxes and less government regulation. Ogles said he was pleased with the turnout given the stormy weather Wednesday morning. But he said more people will need to become active if the gas tax is to be stopped.
“The people of Tennessee are going to have to engage,” he said.