Haslam differs with Trump, Beavers on highway funding

Gov. Bill Haslam, who toured the state Monday for ceremonial signings of his “IMPROVE Act,” declared along way that he’s not too keen on President Trump’s infrastructure plans — or on state Sen. Mae Beavers declaring she’ll push to repeal of the IMPROVE fuel tax hikes if elected to succeed him as governor.

From The Tennessean:

Trump announced plans Monday to cut back national spending on infrastructure projects and is set to announce intentions to put more responsibility on states and cities to pick up the costs by working with private companies.

“That’s one of the reasons that we pushed so hard on (the IMPROVE Act),” Haslam said Monday. “A lot of people said, ‘Let’s just wait.’ President Trump, when he was running, talked a lot about a new infrastructure plan, but I never had any certainty that that would make any difference for us.”

…”A lot of those plans involve public-private partnerships, which is another form of debt, and we’re one of the few states that doesn’t take on debt with our roads,” Haslam said.

“A public-private partnership, while that’s not technically debt, is the same thing because you’re promising a certain revenue stream to whoever that person is putting the dollars up. We’ve always been pay-as-you-go for roads, so I’ve been under the assumption that if we’re going to address infrastructure problems, we’re gonna have to do it ourselves.”

From the Times Free Press on Beavers call for repeal of the gas tax as she announced her campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination:

“If you want to repeal that, how are you going to pay for road improvements?” Haslam asked reporters in Nashville on Monday afternoon as he held one of several ceremonial signings around the state on the IMPROVE Act, which raises gas and diesel taxes for roads and bridges while simultaneously cutting non-highway taxes by an even larger amount.

“Are you going to take the tax cuts that we made off the table too?” Haslam said of the reductions, which include a 20 percent cut to the state sales tax on food sold in grocery stores beginning July 1. “You know, one of the things I’ve always said is, whoever it is, you say I’m going to do this or do that. But at the end of the day, the math has to work.”

… Haslam, who is term limited and can’t run for a third term in 2018, said if the fuel tax increases, which raise gas and diesel by 6 cents and 10 cents per gallon, respectively, over a three-year period, were to be repealed, “we have to go back into the budget and say are you going to take out the tax cuts or not do the road improvements.

“Or,” Haslam added, “what else are you going to take out of state government to pay for it? It’s a simple math question.”

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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