KNOXVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam did not acknowledge the multiple alternatives to his proposed gas tax increase that legislators have introduced in the statehouse as viable options during an interview with Knoxville media Friday.
"No one else has laid out a plan and said 'This is how we're going to pay for it,'" Haslam said.
"Right now we're the only plan out there that says 'Here's how much it's going to cost. Here's how we're going to pay for it. And here are the road projects that are involved.' Any other plan needs to say 'Here's how we're going to pay for it.' And if it's less than what we're talking about, 'Here's what road projects we're not going to do,'" Haslam said.
His spokesperson added the other proposed plans take money from the general fund to pay for transportation projects. The governor's plan proposes a user fee that would go to the road fund, not the general fund.
Haslam's plan calls for a 7-cent hike on gasoline and a 12-cent increase on diesel fuel to pay for the state's $10 billion in backlogged road projects. His plan, called the IMPROVE Act, includes cuts to the grocery tax, franchise and excise tax and the Hall income tax.
Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) has created a plan to take one-quarter of one percent of sales tax revenue to create a recurring dedicated fund to address transportation needs long-term.
Rep. Jason Zachary of Knoxville said his constituents are pushing him to find an alternative to a tax increase by pointing out the state is sitting on a $1 billion dollar budget surplus and another $1 billion surplus is projected for this year.
He has proposed allocating a quarter of any state surplus money over $5 million each month to TDOT.
"I think there have been multiple plans proposed. I've talked to representatives. Mine is not a long term solution by any means but is a one-time kick start to begin to move us down the path of addressing the infrastructure needs," Zachary said.
However, Haslam, who spent Friday morning trying to sell the gas tax increase to business and political leaders at a Knoxville Chamber breakfast, dismissed those alternate plans.
During Friday's breakfast, he explained the IMPROVE Act also includes city and county governments receiving funding to pay for local road repairs.
"The city of Knoxville and Knox county will get $2 million each every year to maintain your local roads in addition to the $500 million worth of projects that will happen here," Haslam said.
Haslam also argued that the using surplus money is not a long term solution.
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