Haslam Bargained with Democrats and Establishment Republicans to Pass Gas Tax Increase Bill

Tennessee Star


Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” (HB 534), which includes a 6 cents per gallon gas tax increase and a 10 cents per gallon diesel tax increase phased in over three years, garnered 23 votes from Democrats and 37 establishment Republicans, which was more than sufficient to get it to pass in the Tennessee House of Representatives by a vote of 60 to 37 late Wednesday.

It was a long day for State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss, the leading co-sponsor of the bill, who spent several hours presenting the case for the bill on the floor of the House prior to the final vote.

State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss made the case for the Improve Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” on the House floor.

Only two Democrats, State Rep G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) and State Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), joined the conservative caucus  of Republicans, who cast 35 votes against the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”

Rep. Hardaway was one of only two Democrats to vote against the Improve Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”

Rumors swirled throughout the capitol Wednesday that Governor Haslam had made a deal with the Democrats to secure their votes.

Rep. Doss (R-Leoma) was seen conversing on the floor with several Democrats throughout the day, which was not, by itself, particularly unusual.

More significantly, Democratic Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) was seen accompanying administrative staffer Warren Wells to the capitol Tuesday afternoon.

As reported by The Tennessee Star, Leader Fitzhugh confirmed that Governor Haslam was told a $250 million education expenditure would gain Democrat support for the governor’s gas tax increase proposal, a deal the Governor denied in a Wednesday morning telephone interview with WWTN’s Ralph Bristol.

While the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” includes tax cuts, several Democrats have spoken passionately throughout the committee process and on the House floor Wednesday that not enough was being done for the poor, working poor and elderly and that the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” tax cuts go to the wealthiest of Tennesseans.

State Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) made just such an impassioned plea on the floor of the House but ended up voting yes in favor of the Improve Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”

State Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) ended up voting for the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”

Democrats argued that the business tax, otherwise known as the franchise and excise (F&E) tax, and the Hall Income Tax are paid by the wealthy, and the reductions don’t provide any benefits to ordinary citizens.

The reduction in the grocery tax was increased from its original half percent to one percent, but many Democrats felt the cuts didn’t go far enough.  The gas and diesel tax increases are estimated to yield the state an additional $384 million per year, while the grocery tax cut will reduce the state’s revenue by $110 million.

Through the committee process Democrats discussed cutting the grocery tax further, eliminating the state portion completely or exempting certain items like baby formula and diapers.

While several Democrats proposed various amendments to those effects, all were eventually withdrawn.

Many Republicans who have claimed to be conservatives revealed themselves to be aligned with the tax increase policies of Gov. Haslam and his many friends on the Democrat side of the aisle.

Only last month State Rep. Susan Lynn said she was opposed to the gas tax increase, yet she voted for it on Wednesday.

Last month, State Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) dismissed a challenge to a debate over the gas tax increase bill from challenger Jeremy Hayes because, she said “there’s nothing to debate. I’m opposed to the gas tax.”

By Wednesday afternoon, that opposition had evaporated and Lynn cast a yes vote in favor of the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”

Speaker Beth Harwell, who was for the gas tax before she was against it, ended up voting for its final passage.

Speaker Harwell’s half hearted efforts on behalf of an alternative to the gas tax increase left her in an uncomfortable position on Wednesday. She voted against the preliminary motion to adopt the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” but voted for its final passage.


Democrats who voted for the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” were Representatives Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Bill Beck (D-Nashville), Karen Camper (D-Memphis), John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis), John DeBerry (D-Memphis), Joanne Favors (D-Chattanooga), Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville), Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory), Harold Love (D-Nashville), Larry Miller (D-Memphis) Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville), Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar), Rick Staples (D-Knoxville), Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova), and Joe Towns, Jr. (D-Memphis).

Majority Leader State Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) voted for the amendment to adopt the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” but was absent for the passage of the bill itself.  (There was an “E” –excused– next to his name.)


Establishment Republicans who voted for the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” were Representatives David Alexander, (R-Winchester) Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville), Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), Dale Carr (R-Sevierville), Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville), Barry Doss (R-Leoma), Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), Jimmy Eldridge (R-Jackson), Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), John Forgety (R-Athens), Marc Gravitt (R-East Ridge), Craig Halford (R-Dyer), Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain), Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville), John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton), Dan Howell (R-Georgetown), Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville), Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown), Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads), John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville), Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton), Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville), Art Swann (R-Maryville), Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg), Ron Travis (R-Dayton), Mark White (R-Memphis), Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville).


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4 Thoughts to “Haslam Bargained with Democrats and Establishment Republicans to Pass Gas Tax Increase Bill”

  1. […] The Star reported previously, State Rep. Sargent, Chairman of the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee, was a leading […]

  2. […] the morning of the House floor vote which eventually approved the IMPROVE Act, there were rumors that the Governor would appropriate $250 million for an education plan and that the Democrats, […]

  3. Jim Poe

    Left out Tim Wirgau (R-Paris) as an establishment Republican voting for the gas tax.

  4. Bob

    I now know what it like living in a “red state” with a state government that rules like a “blue state”. Throw a bone to the veterans and elderly then feed a 7 course meal to big business to get a really bad bill passed. A bill that increases fuel taxes which in turn increases the cost of every single piece of merchandise transported by truck – essentially everything we purchase. This bill was a disaster as soon as it left our RINO governor’s office. Way to go you bunch of fake conservatives. My cost of living just went up – again.