Gov. Lee Proposes Toll Lanes, Electric Vehicle Registration Fee Increase

by Jon Styf


Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the Department of Transportation are looking to raise the annual vehicle registration fees for electric vehicles up to three times to $300 along with adding potential toll commuter lanes.

The proposals come as Lee and the department claim that the state needs $26 billion in funding toward road congestion, with $14 billion for the state’s four major metro areas and $12 billion for rural interstates.

The proposals came during a presentation from Lee and the department.

Lee said in the announcement that the state would not raise the gas tax or issue new road debt to fund the road improvements and that it would look for a public-private partnership to build the toll lanes and then have users pay tolls to use the additional lanes.

“As Tennessee continues to experience unprecedented growth, it’s critical we invest in roads and bridges to fully harness our state’s success,” Governor Bill Lee said. “I asked Commissioner (Butch) Eley to look at best practices around the country to see what’s working and what isn’t. The Build With Us plan will provide quality infrastructure in both rural and urban communities and blunt congestion without raising the gas tax or going into debt.”

The department claimed that gasoline engine cars pay an average of $300 annually in gas taxes and registration fees while electric vehicle owners pay the $100 annual registration fee. The math presented did not include the cost of taxes on electricity paid by EV owners and it comes as Tennessee currently has a one-year registration fee moratorium on personal gas-powered vehicles and autocycles.

The cost of that moratorium was estimated to be $121.6 million.

Tennessee saw an influx in pandemic-related funds over the past two years, with $3.7 billion in federal dollars coming to Tennessee in the Tennessee Resiliency Plan for projects, many of which would have otherwise required state spending. Those funds were not allowed to be allocated for road improvement projects, only to fill budget holes created by the COVID-19 pandemic and fund projects for departments impacted by the pandemic.

The state also collected $4.6 billion more than budgeted in taxes and fees last fiscal year. Those statistics include gas taxes and registration fees.

The state has also increased its private business incentives, giving nearly $1 billion to Ford for its electric truck manufacturing Blue Oval City project, promising $500 million to the Tennessee Titans for a new covered stadium, giving multiple incentives to Ultium Cells — a $60 million incentive and another unannounced incentive — for a yet-to-be-completed battery cell project in Spring Hill.

Last week, the department also promised $40 million in incentives to LG Chem for a new Clarksville facility to the produce electric vehicle battery component cathode.

Academic research shows that the largest impact of the spending of public dollars is to bring political and financial benefit to the politicians who approve those incentives.

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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Styf is a reporter for The Center Square. 
Photo “Bill Lee” by Gov. Bill Lee. Background Photo “Electric Vehicle Charging Station” by Joenomias.





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11 Thoughts to “Gov. Lee Proposes Toll Lanes, Electric Vehicle Registration Fee Increase”

  1. Joe Blow

    Lee is nothing more than a tax and spend Democrat who lives in Tennessee and falsely calls himself a conservative. Let the traffic choke Nashville to death and the problem will solve itself. No city has EVER built highways fast enough nor big enough to absorb artificially stimulated growth. Growth such as what Lee and his economic “development” bunch have dumped on Tennessee.

  2. Horatio Bunce

    “a democratic government powerful enough to dictate that which is bought and sold will inevitably devolve into rule by rube.” El Gato Malo

    It’s just a matter of where we currently fall on the Green Grift timeline.

    The Pfizer contingent in Nashville should take a trip to Atlanta, sit a couple of hours on 85 and take note of those pay-to-play express lanes that are “closed” despite the bumper-to-bumper traffic jam.

    How does the state government modify a federal highway? If they can do that, then Susan Lynn’s gas tax should already be used to pave the pothole collection in east Knoxville formerly known as I-40 west.

  3. Randy

    Not no but…….. Electric Vehicles and there infrastructure are one example of a government boondoggle, trying to claw back that giveaway through registration fees is stupid, you will never get there. Toll roads don’t pay for roads they funnel money to others.. The gas tax was suppose to help solve our road funding issues. The fact of the matter is the previous governor deliberately underfunded that department for years. The continuation of his legacy building was more important. The term public private partnership describes the transfer of more tax dollars to well connected and well heeled friends. Somebody has to pay to build sports complexes that make the rich filthy rich.

  4. Cannoneertwo

    Is this designed to help Tennesseans, or help roadbuilding business cronies?

  5. Cannoneertwo

    I propose a new graduated tax based on vehicle value. The more expensive the vehicle, the more expensive the tax.

    1. Joe Blow

      Figures that an idea like that would come from a liberal. Those owning more expensive cars have already paid an increase in tax through the state sales tax laws. That is enough, thank you!

  6. JRin

    Toll lanes on some highways will lead to toll lanes on all highways. Current budget surplus is HUGE, and next year’s will probably be bigger. Either use this money for the roads, or refund this excess to the taxpayer. How much money will be spent by the private sector to “lobby” politicians to pass toll road legislation?

  7. juspassinthru


  8. Molly

    Well Billy
    How r u going to charge all those EVs?


  9. JRin

    Once the “toll-road” camel gets its nose under the tent, it’ll just be a matter of time before the camel dung spreads to all major roadways. There’s ALWAYS a “reason”. “Tennessee finished FY 2022 with a $1.6 billion unbudgeted [sic] surplus “…The Sycamore Institute. Politicians – and Lee IS a politician – will squander this budget surplus while making back-room deals with toll providers.

    1. Horatio Bunce

      Well, see, that’s our “rainy day fund”, but apparently the last two years of Bill’s business-ending executive order lockdowns, unaccountable, unelected “health departments” Coronahoax recommendations and Republicans turning a blind eye to same are not considered “rain”. Neither do corporate welfare checks to previous welfare recipients like Ford and the Titans qualify as “rain”.