IMembers of the 110th Tennessee General Assembly have officially passed House Bill 534, the “Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads, and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy (IMPROVE) Act.” Governor Bill Haslam introduced the Gas Tax in January in order to help fund the state’s $10 billion backlog of road construction projects.
This raises the gas tax by 6 cents and the diesel tax by 10 cents over the next 3 years. Registration fees for most cars will also increase by $5, commercial automobiles by $10 and other large vehicles will be paying $15 extra. Electric cars will see a new $100 registration fee.
I have always said we must find a dedicated source of funding in order to pay for our roads and bridges in Tennessee.   After hearing feedback from our community voicing strong opposition to the plan and the tax increases it contains, I did not support the increase in gas taxes.  Instead, I supported an alternative plan that also would have created a reliable funding source for infrastructure without raising taxes on any Tennesseans. However, a majority of my colleagues disagreed with my decision, the Gas Tax Increase passed, and Governor Haslam signed the bill last week. 
The passage of the new infrastructure  funding bill means the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and our local governments will have more money to spend on road projects — TDOT will see increased revenue of $240 million per year. In total, counties across the state will receive $79 million and cities will see a revenue increase of approximately $35 million per year to use for local road and infrastructure projects. In Cannon County alone, the county will receive an extra $138,612 thousand in Diesel Taxes and $386,971 thousand in Gasoline Taxes.   The breakdown is included below:
                City/County Location                  Diesel                      Gasoline
                        Cannon County                 $138,612                  $ 386,971
                        Woodbury                          $ 6,975                     $19,363
                        Auburntown                        $ 700                        $ 1,944
The legislation will help fund 15 projects identified by the state as needed for future development.
Route                    Project Description                                             Est. Cost to Complete
01376            Murfreesboro Road bridge over branch                                    $ 448,000
0A014           McAllister Lane bridge over Sanders Fork Creek                    $ 377,000
0A021           Marshall Creek Road bridge over Marshall Creek                    $ 835,000
Route                    Project Description                                            Est. Cost to Complete
0A059             Blair Branch Road bridge over Blair Creek                            $ 341,000
0A090             Tate Road bridge over Connell Creek                                    $ 433,000
0A141             Bullpen Road bridge over Bullpen Creek                               $ 452,000
0A181             Gilley Hill Road bridge over Brawleys Fork Creek                  $ 458,000
0A184             Howard Youree Road bridge over Dug Branch                       $ 137,000
0A293             Jack Barnes Road bridge over Hurricane Creek                     $ 418,000
0A316             Castle Point bridge over Leach Creek                                   $ 460,000
0A331             Polly Campbell Road bridge over Wilmore Creek                   $ 416,000
0A332             Curtis George Road bridge over Wilmore Creek                     $ 430,000
0A354             Ferrell Bridge Lane bridge over East Fork Stones River          $ 455,000
US-70S (SR1) W. Main Street bridge over East Fork Stones River                $ 4,105,000
US-70S (SR1) W. Main Street from west of Woodbury to new SR-1
(US-70S) east of Woodbury                                                                        $13,200,000
The Gas tax bill does reduce taxes by more than $300 million annually. These tax breaks include a 1% reduction on the sales tax on food. The legislation will also help all Tennesseans by lowering some high taxes on Tennessee manufacturers.  We need businesses that provide high paying, steady jobs here in this state.  Finally this act adds a set schedule to eliminate the Halls Income Tax.  I agree with all these reductions and have fought for them.
Having all these different issues on the same bill is another reason for my opposition to the act.  One big difference between Nashville and Washington, D.C. has been how Tennessee considers and votes on legislation.  In Washington, they combine many issues and laws together.  This makes it very hard to keep pork and special interest projects out of good pieces of legislation.  We all have seen these silly and expensive projects come out of our nation’s capitol.  Back home, we traditionally take up each issue individually.  That process has set us apart from the rest of the nation.  We did not follow that procedure on the Gas tax increase.
Even though we have some positive things that will come from the Gas Taxes — sadly, it also means increased taxes for each of us. The families of our community have been consistent expressing opposition to an additional tax increase throughout this entire process. In a year where we are experiencing a historic budget surplus, we should have chosen to fund our roads and bridges within our current budget and not raise taxes at the expense of Tennesseans across our state. As always, I remain committed to listening to the voice of our community throughout the remainder of the 2017 legislative session and the years ahead.
Mark Pody serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Consumer & Human Resources Committee. He is also a member of the House Consumer & Human Resources Subcommittee and House Insurance & Banking Committee. He lives in Lebanon and represents House District 46, which includes all of Cannon and part of Wilson and DeKalb Counties. He can be reached by email at or by calling (615) 741-7086.

May 12, 2017 Woodbury, TN

State Representative Mark Pody Responds
To The Passage Of The Improve Act

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