April 2, 2008
Sen. Johnson and Rep. Sargent advance legislation to
restore gas tax money diverted from road fund
(Nasvhille, TN, April 2, 2008) – Legislation that would restore gas tax money from being diverted from the state’s road fund to the general fund to pay for other state government expenses has advanced today in the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill, sponsored by Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Representative Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), would eliminate the authority of state government to divert approximately $13.7 million in the highway user fees this year.
“Our transportation needs are moving towards crisis level in Middle Tennessee,” said Senator Johnson. “Over the last five or six years, $280 million in road funds have been funneled from the gas tax to meet other state government expenditures. This is now catching up with us as our communities are growing and we don’t have the road money to keep up with transportation demands.”
The Department of Transportation only spends the funds that are available through its dedicated revenues, the highway user taxes and fees, and federal funding. Called “dedicated funding” since users pay for the roads through gas taxes and fees, a portion of the gasoline tax also goes to cities and counties in Tennessee to fund local roads.
“Tennessee has a user ‘pay as you go’ road program,” Sargent added. “Because of this, we have not had to rely on bonds like so many other states to fund our highway program. Diversion of these funds to pay for other state government expenses upsets this balance and leads to many problems down the road. It also leads to more traffic congestion and an inadequate road system, which we had before we adopted this system.”
“Tennessee must compete in a very competitive economic climate,” Johnson added. We need the infrastructure to bring new and better paying jobs to our communities. Erosion of our road money is a big problem in this effort.”
The Highway Fund would receive approximately $11,400,000 of the shifted funds under the bill. Local governments would receive the remaining $2,300,000.
The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee where Johnson says it will face an uphill battle since Tennessee is currently facing a revenue shortfall. It is pending action in the House in the Budget Subcommittee.