Franklin leaders took a stand of solidarity with Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday night, voting unanimously to stand behind his multi-million package to improve transportation.
Sitting in a board room he once did as mayor, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commission John Schroer went over the mechanisms of what is called the IMPROVE Act. Schroer spoke the Williamson County Commission Monday night, also supporting the proposal. The county passed a similar measure to support the plan.
Through its resolution, the Board of Mayor and Alderman said it believes the governor’s proposal is the way to help secure sustainable funding, which BOMA also requested last year.
The overall plan cuts taxes in some areas but also includes a 7-cent-per-gallon increase on the gasoline tax, which hasn’t been raised since the late 1980s, and a 12-cent increase on diesel fuel. This portion of the issue most have focused on throughout the process.
For Tennesseans using gasoline to fuel their cars, that means on average spending $4 a month more on gas, even though Schorer said fuel prices vary statewide.
“It’s supply and demand,” he said. “It’s higher here because people and Williamson County can afford to do that. So will a gas tax increase really even hit consumers? It’s paid when it enters the state. There are studies that say it’s absorbed because it’s supply and demand. It’s different than a sales tax.”
The current tax rate is 21.4 cents per gallon. Money from the gas tax goes to the Tennessee Department of Transportation to fund infrastructure statewide. The state cannot, by law, go in debt for its roads, which are not funded from the state’s general fund.
Franklin Board of Mayor and Alderman members like the plan. If passed, it has the ability to help fund multiple projects in Franklin.
“Seven cents seems like nothing,” Ward Four Alderman Margaret Martin said. “If it hurts that much, maybe you should give up one of your cars.” She noted several in Williamson have more vehicles than members of their households.
Schroer said he also would have to argue against the mindset that the surplus money could fund roads and infrastructure needs in its totality. Right now, Tennessee has backlog of nearly $6 billion of work the state needs accomplished.
“You don’t fund roads with one time dollars,” he said.
Williamson’s Republican legislators have taken different perspectives on what they think will work. The county also has a seat of representation at the table in the form of freshman Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), who sits on the House Transportation Committee. Whitson said when campaigning and door knocking, traffic was the number one issue he heard standing on front porches.
But when asked which plan he thought was best for the state, he paused for a moment. Right now, there are nearly half a dozen floating around the legislature.
“I think the governor’s plan offers the most viable, long-term solution to our state’s transportation problem,” he said.
Meanwhile, Majority Leader Glen Casada hasn’t outright negated the governor’s plan. He’s cosponsoring and carrying much of his agenda. However, Casada has touted a plan that he dubbed as simpler, though the governor retorted last week nothing about funding models for transportation would come in an easy form.