Gov: No plans ‘right now’ to overhaul fuel taxes

Transportation commissioner suggested switching to usage fees

Although the governor’s transportation commissioner has called the state’s current gas tax structure an “archaic” way of keeping up Tennessee’s roads, Gov. Bill Haslam says he has no plans to restructure the levy.

Last week, Commissioner John Schroer suggested to the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization the state would benefit from a system that shifted the tax to a usage fee based on miles driven and vehicle weight.

When asked whether he would change the tax in his second term, Haslam said, “We don’t know that,” and later added, “Right now, we don’t have any plans to change Tennessee’s formula.”

At the federal level, the Highway Trust Fund is running out of money to send to states, putting funding for road work and improvements in a crunch.

Here’s the Q&A between the governor and reporters Tuesday:

Reporter: Governor, last week in Knoxville, Commissioner Schroer said the fuel tax system was archaic, needs to be replaced. Will you either replace the fuel tax system we have now in your second term or raise the current gas tax?

Haslam: We don’t know that. I think commissioner Schroer’s point is we’ve been funding on per-gallon basis. That formula obviously is a lot more difficult than it used to be in the days before, in the old days. It’s a challenge not just for us but for federal funds and you’re seeing that particularly in the federal funding for state transportation projects, where right now there’s no funding at all for next year, which is hard enough for states like Tennessee.

States that have a whole bunch of road debt, they’ve got a major issue. So, right now we don’t have any plans to change Tennessee’s formula. We are, like I said, listening and waiting to see what happens on the federal level, not just with their formula, but obviously with the funding that’s implicated by that.

Reporter: Do you agree with him that that is archaic and needs to be replaced?

Haslam: I don’t know if I’d say archaic, but I’d say it’s definitely something that, the situation around which that funding formula was set up has changed in this state and we’re living with the implications of that.