Initial reaction to Haslam’s taxing plans

McNally likes it; Harwell ‘grateful’

Statement to media from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally:

“Governor Haslam’s proposal does what Republicans do consistently: It cuts taxes. This plan addresses our transportation funding dilemma in a way that makes sense and still reduces the overall tax burden on our citizens. In just the past few years, we have repealed the gift tax, eliminated the death tax, reduced the sales tax on food and begun the phase out the Hall Income Tax. Governor Haslam’s plan unveiled today does even more to reduce the overall tax burden on our citizens. This plan eases the tax burden on our manufacturers allowing them create jobs that Tennesseans need. The plan also takes another bite out of the food tax which gives our working and middle class citizens a tax break on the everyday necessities of life. For Tennessee’s economic growth to continue we must have the infrastructure to support it. This plan attacks the funding issue in a responsible way. I appreciate Governor Haslam bringing forth this proposal. I look forward to a spirited debate on the merits in the House and the Senate.”

Statement to media from House Speaker Beth Harwell

“I am grateful Governor Haslam has found ways to cut taxes and reduce the size of government in addition to calling attention to our infrastructure need and today putting forward a plan to address them. Transportation and infrastructure solutions are vital to ensuring our state remains competitive, creating jobs and bringing prosperity to all Tennesseans. I look forward to discussing these ideas and others to address these needs with my House colleagues.”

Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris: ‘Initially encouraging’

Statement from Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis

“While we are waiting to receive more details on the Governor’s proposal later this week, particularly details on the franchise and excise tax cut proposal, the Governor’s remarks about infrastructure and public transit are initially encouraging. Democrats and many others have been pushing for solutions to solve our road issues. In my county alone, the state has $874 million in backlogged road projects, like the Lamar Avenue project, which has been shovel-ready for 15 years. Seventy-seven thousand trucks pass through Tennessee every day. It’s up to the state to ensure the highways are in good condition. As important, we have filed bills to expand public transit options by giving local governments the option to raise transit revenue, an idea the Governor endorsed this morning.  I am also initially encouraged by the cut to grocery taxes, which is the kind of broad-based reform that has the potential to give some relief, albeit minor, to all Tennesseans.  Finally, the Governor again raised the issue of cuts to the Hall Income tax, which is likely to raise concerns for local governments around our state that use that revenue for law enforcement, among other needs.  Unlike cuts to taxes on groceries, Hall Income Tax cuts only help a very limited number of individuals, around 4.3% of Tennessee households and, in some counties, like mine, less than 1% of households pay the tax.”

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh

Part of a press release:

“Investing in our infrastructure is one of the best things we can do as a state to create sustainable economic growth,” said Fitzhugh. “While I look forward to hearing more about the Governor’s plan, I also want to make sure whatever we do is equitable for all Tennesseans–regardless of their income or geographic location.”

Fitzhugh made the statement in response to Haslam’s announcement to cut $270 million dollars in taxes during the next year, of which only $55 million directly benefits Tennessee’s middle class.  The administration plans to ask for a 7 cent per gallon increase in gasoline and 12 cents for diesel engines, as well as a five dollar increase in registration fees and a $100 yearly fee for electric vehicles.

“I want a good road for our state, but for many issues in this administration and with the majority party, there has been a ‘kick the can down the road mentality,” Fitzhugh said.  “I believe in Gov. Ned Ray McWherter’s philosophy of ‘education plus roads equal jobs.’”

While Fitzhugh is happy with a proposal in the reduction of the grocery tax in Tennessee, he is troubled by the timing of the announcement.

“I applaud the governor for his intention to cut the grocery tax by a half percent, but we should have done this much sooner,” Fitzhugh said.  “I brought legislation early in the governor’s administration to reduce the grocery tax to this level. For almost 5 years, hard-working Tennesseans have paid an exorbitant tax on groceries compared to other states, while the Administration focused on cutting taxes for the wealthiest 4% of Tennesseans. This Hall Tax cut is putting local governments in a lurch and–at some point–those chickens are going to come home to roost.”



Mass Transit boosters applaud

News release from Tennessee Transit Coalition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 18, 2017) – The Tennessee Transit Coalition applauds Governor Bill Haslam for proposing an infrastructure funding plan and looks forward to working with him and the members of the Tennessee General Assembly to ensure that it supports public transportation in all Tennessee communities.

“We’re encouraged that Governor Haslam’s proposal includes a local funding option to give communities the tools to finance their own projects,” said Jason Spain, executive director of the Tennessee Public Transportation Association (TPTA). “However, in some regions of the state, particularly our rural areas, raising additional revenue locally isn’t a viable option. We would like to see the state invest the necessary resources to improve public transportation statewide. Public transit is a growing choice in our state; but it is also a necessity for many Tennesseans in both our rural and urban areas who rely on it for access to jobs, schools and everyday services like medical appointments.”

Last week, Spain met with Gov. Haslam’s staff to deliver more than 1,000 petitions from residents from more than 60 counties throughout the state and a letter signed by seven partner organizations, including AARP Tennessee, Tennessee Association of Human Resource Agencies, Tennessee Disability Coalition, Tennessee Public Health Association, Tennessee Public Transportation Association, Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee and Walk Bike Tennessee. These voices represent the Tennessee Transit Coalition, TPTA’s new grassroots initiative.

The full petition can be viewed at

Nashville Mayor Meagan Barry (via The Tennessean)

Barry, in a prepared statement, put her support behind Haslam’s transportation plan, saying she appreciates the governor’s inclusion of a local option for voters to approve dedicated transit funding.

“I believe Nashvillians are willing to pay for a mass transit system that meets the needs of our growing community if given the chance to make that decision,” she said, adding that that over the coming months she intends to advocate for transportation legislation “that will keep Nashville and Tennessee moving forward.”

Business lobbying group happy

News release from TN Transportation Coalition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (January 18, 2017) – The following statements were provided by several Transportation Coalition of Tennessee member organizations in response to the proposal outlined today by Gov. Bill Haslam to address transportation infrastructure funding.

The individuals quoted below are speaking on behalf of their individual organizations and in support of the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, which advocates for long-term, sustainable funding that will maintain and enhance our state’s transportation infrastructure.

The following statement may be attributed to Susie Alcorn, executive director, Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance:

“We applaud Governor Bill Haslam for putting forth a proposal to address our state’s growing transportation infrastructure needs. Governor Haslam is the first Tennessee governor in 27 years to make this important piece of the state budget a priority, and we are grateful for his leadership.

“Tennessee’s identified transportation infrastructure needs now total more than $11 billion in projects.

From the launch of our Coalition, our goal has been to see reform that provides long-term sustainable funding for our transportation system while addressing public transportation needs. Governor Haslam’s proposal is balanced, responsible and comprehensive, and we look forward to working with the legislature on this critical issue.”

The following statement may be attributed to Bill Moore, chairman of the Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance and former chief engineer for Tennessee Department of Transportation:

“We thank Governor Haslam for putting forth this proposal to address long-term, sustainable funding for our state’s transportation infrastructure needs. The Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance has advocated for a solution to these growing needs for more than a decade, and we see the governor’s leadership as a huge step forward in maintaining an important part of our state’s ability to grow and to be economically competitive.

“We are encouraged by the governor’s announcement today, following his two years of statewide tours to educate Tennesseans about the vital role of infrastructure and the need to adequately fund it for the generations to come. We look forward to working with Governor Haslam and House and Senate members as the proposal makes its way through the legislature.”

The following statement may be attributed to Kent Starwalt, executive vice president, Tennessee Road Builders Association:

“The Tennessee Road Builders Association thanks Governor Bill Haslam for his leadership and for addressing long-term, sustainable funding to meet our state’s identified highway and bridge needs, which now total more than $11 billion in projects.

“We know Governor Haslam has put a great deal of time and effort into the proposal he outlined today. He has spent upward of two years educating Tennesseans about our state’s transportation needs and how those needs could be funded.

“Transportation infrastructure funding is both a state and local issue and one that affects both urban and rural communities. Governor Haslam’s proposal seeks to boost economic development, reduce traffic congestion and ensure safe travel for everyone who drives on Tennessee roads.

“Now is the time to take action. We look forward to working with Governor Haslam and members of the House and Senate as this proposal works its way through the legislature.”

The following statement may be attributed to Dave Huneryager, president and CEO, Tennessee Trucking Association:

“The Tennessee Trucking Association appreciates Gov. Bill Haslam’s leadership and his willingness to address our state’s transportation infrastructure needs. A well-maintained and less-congested interstate system is important to the trucking industry and to the state’s economy.

“Today’s announcement is a starting point for a larger conversation. We are eager to review Gov. Haslam’s proposal in detail and look forward to working with him and members of the legislature on a long-term funding solution.”

The following statement may be attributed to Ralph Schulz, president and CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce:

“There is a direct link between a strong transportation system and economic development, and Middle Tennessee is a perfect example of the benefits and challenges our state faces. We appreciate the governor’s efforts to not only address the current backlog of transportation projects across the state but also allow local governments in the Nashville region to address the need for transit options. The chamber looks forward to working with the governor and General Assembly to address the transportation needs of Middle Tennessee. It makes a difference to businesses that already call Tennessee home as well as ones looking to come here.”


The Transportation Coalition of Tennessee was created to educate the public and state legislators as it seeks an increase of and reform in Tennessee’s transportation fees. The coalition aims to recruit other interested parties to join in seeking a comprehensive funding solution to maintain and expand Tennessee’s critical transportation system.

Participants in the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee include businesses, citizens, community leaders, public officials and organizations that are interested in continuing Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure for the long haul.

The Transportation Coalition steering committee includes representatives from the Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance, The Auto Club Group AAA Tennessee, Tennessee Public Transportation Association, Tennessee Trucking Association, Tennessee County Highway Officials Association, Tennessee Municipal League, Tennessee City Management Association, American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee and Tennessee Road Builders Association.

Tennessee is a pay-as-you-go state, with transportation projects funded primarily by state and federal fuel tax revenues. The dollars are apportioned for state and local projects, which include maintenance, repair and new construction.

For more information or to join the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, visit the website at

Note: This post may be updated with new stuff as it becomes available.

One Response to Initial reaction to Haslam’s taxing plans

  • Michael Lottman says:

    Haslam’s plan, as described, makes no sense. It provides revenues to begin (barely) to meet the state’s infrastructure and transportation needs, but still results in an overall reduction in taxes. That is mathematically impossible. This plan, as described, is at best a continuation of tax relief for the rich combined with an additional tax burden for the poor and especially the rural poor. Somebody needs to step up to the plate with a plan to meet our infrastructure and transportation needs and to put up the money needed to pay for the plan without reducing other needed services or adding to the tax burdens of the poor.

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