House leaders push alternative to Haslam's gas tax plan

Tennessee's transportation needs can be paid for by using a portion of the existing revenue generated through the sales tax instead of increasing the gas tax, according to an alternative funding proposal outlined Wednesday by a leading House Republican.

The specifics of the proposal are relatively simple compared to Gov. Bill Haslam's plan: The alternative plan would take a quarter of 1 percent of the state's 7 percent sales tax and allocate those funds to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Rep. David Hawk, an assistant leader in the House, has been working on the plan since he entered leadership in November.

The plan, which would raise $291 million a year, would utilize existing funds the state receives without raising taxes.

"Historically the state of Tennessee's sales tax is how we fund our priorities," Hawk, R-Greeneville, said ahead of a planned news conference where he outlined the proposal. "If transportation needs in Tennessee are a priority, I find it incumbent upon us to try to fund those priorities through existing revenues."

When the state raised the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent in 2002, all of the money received from that increase went into the general fund.

Haslam's latest budget recommends sending $33.3 billion in the general fund for the upcoming fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Haslam's transportation funding plan calls for hiking the tax on gasoline and diesel by 7 cents and 12 cents per gallon, respectively, while making cuts in other areas, including the state's tax on groceries. The governor estimates his overall proposal would generate about $278 million a year.

News release from Rep. David Hawk

(NASHVILLE) — Today in Nashville, State Representative David Hawk (R–Greeneville) officially announced a funding plan to help address the state’s transportation and infrastructure needs. He was joined by State Representative Glen Casada (R–Thompson’s Station) and other House leaders.

Currently, the Tennessee Department of Transportation faces a reported $10.5 billion backlog of road and bridge projects across the state that have been approved, but that do not currently have funding.

Under the Hawk plan, a quarter of 1% of the state general sales tax would be solely dedicated to the state transportation fund, creating a reliable and sustainable funding source that does not raise taxes on Tennesseans. In total, the plan would transfer $291 million per year to the Tennessee Department of Transportation and local governments to be used on road construction projects and infrastructure.

“I believe this plan will create a dedicated, recurring fund that prioritizes both the taxpayer dollar and our long-term infrastructure needs,” said Representative Hawk. “I look forward to working with the Governor’s administration on this and other ideas over the coming months.”

“We must find a permanent solution to our transportation funding problems,” continued Representative Casada. “What I like about David Hawk’s plan is that it is simple, it is predictable, and it is a conservative approach using existing dollars in the state budget.”