High Noon: Steve Gill and Ralph Bristol Debate the Gas Tax on WWTN Tomorrow

Tennessee Star

Steve Gill and Ralph Bristol will debate the merits of Gov. Haslam’s proposed gas tax increase on 99.7 FM WWTN’s Dan Mandis Show tomorrow (Wednesday) at noon.

Gill, the former Nashville talk radio host who led the successful opposition to Gov. Sundquist’s proposed state income tax in 2000-2002, is opposed to Haslam’s proposal to increase the gas tax by 7 cents per gallon as well as any other kind of tax increase.

Bristol, the host of Nashville’s Morning News on 99.7 FM WWTN, said in testimony before the State Senate Transportation Committee on Februrary 27, “It is my humble, but considered opinion that Governor Haslam has almost presented a thoughtful, responsible plan that preserves the integrity of an admirable and enviable tax system . . . and that his plan adequately addresses a real need that has always been considered so sacred that it deserved special protection, even from economic downturns that affect the rest of the people’s purse.”

“I do not support the Governor’s plan, as is, because I don’t believe it is the revenue neutral plan it advertises itself to be,” Bristol  stated in his testimony

But the bottom line for Bristol, he concluded in his testimony,  is that “Governor Haslam’s plan could easily be made revenue neutral, or better, with a larger sales tax cut, whether in groceries, or products in general, and I believe it’s affordable.”

Last week, Bristol doubled down on his support for a gas tax increase coupled with other tax cuts.

“I don’t support a tax increase. . . Supporting a gas tax increase coupled with an equal or better tax cut in another broad-based area is NOT ‘supporting a tax increase,’ ” Bristol wrote in a Facebook post on March 7:

And, I have insisted from the beginning that the tax cut equal or better any tax increase.
That has been my position, on the record, on the radio and in testimony to the Senate Transportation Committee.
Suggesting otherwise is either not informed or not honest.
Labeling that position as supporting a tax increase is equally misguided.

Gill helped organize a letter sent to members of the Tennessee General Assembly on Tuesday from fifty conservative leaders in the state who oppose increasing the gas tax.

“Tennesseans are accurately informed about the current financial status of the state understand that we currently have a billion dollar surplus AND a billion dollars a year in new recurring revenue. That revenue stream provides all the resources we need to construct and maintain our roads and bridges without raising ANY taxes,” Gill tells The Tennessee Star.

“And if raising fuel taxes is such a great idea, why weren’t Republican candidates for the legislature and radio talk show hosts promoting their tax increase scheme a few months ago just before the November elections?” Gill asks.

“The bottom line is that giving a tax cut to a handful of the Governor’s corporate cronies, with their high paid lobbyists flooding into Legislative Plaza, while raising taxes on regular, working Tennesseans is anything but “revenue neutral” to those who will be paying higher prices at the pump, at the grocery store, and everywhere else they buy things that are transported by trucks that run on diesel fuel. This whole process is deceptive at best, and disgraceful at worst,” Gill concludes.

“Throughout the public debate over the past two months about Gov. Haslam’s proposed IMPROVE Act, which includes a gas tax increase of 7 cents per gallon, apologists for a gas tax increase–including House Transportation Committee Chairman Barry Doss (R-Leoma), House Senate Transportation Chairman Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), and 99.7 FM WWTN radio’s Ralph Bristol, host of Nashville’s Morning News–have yet to answer one key question about the state’s budget priorities,” The Star reported on Monday.

That key unasked question is this:

With a $1 billion surplus in the state budget, why do you support a gas tax increase when much of the purported road construction shortfall could be addressed by simply re-allocating the $187 million in highway user fees that will be collected in FY 2017-2018 and diverted away from road construction back to the intended purpose of those user fees: road construction?


That question, and several others, are likely to spark a lively debate between Gill and Bristol tomorrow.

The debate is scheduled to be begin on-air at 12:05 pm and will continue for a full hour.

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