Gov. Bredesen Predicts Rise in Gas Tax to Fund Roadwork

Tue January 30, 2007 - Southeast Edition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Gov. Phil Bredesen said he foresees the state’s gas tax increasing in the next four years to help pay for new road construction.

Bredesen told The Tennessean he doesn’t know how much the gas tax would rise, but with gas costing consumers more than $2 per gallon, he believes the price could support a higher gas tax. The state’s current gas tax has remained 21.4 cents-per-gallon for approximately a dozen years.

Bredesen has said previously he wouldn’t rule out a gas tax increase, but doesn’t have any plans to call for such an increase.

State officials said Tennessee faces approximately a $2 billion shortfall over the next 10 years to fund highway construction.

The cost of road projects has gone up considerably in the past few years, “so we are building considerably fewer roads today,” Bredesen said.

Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Knoxville, who called for a decrease in the gas tax last year, said the existing gas tax is making enough money but the state has been spending that money on things other than roads.

“If the governor would pay back the money he has borrowed from the transportation fund, we would not have to raise the gas tax,” Niceley said.

The state has been putting gas tax funds in recent years into its general fund, though Bredesen said he won’t take away any of the gas tax money this year.

Bredesen, a Nashville Democrat, carried all 95 counties in the Nov. 7.

Bredesen also told the newspaper he continues to oppose a state income tax and is against a proposal by some legislators to remove the state’s 6-cent sales tax on food.

“If I were a poor person, I would get more benefit out of the state if I pay an extra buck on groceries, and I get better schools.”

Bredesen said during his second term that he’s also interested in using the state lottery’s financial reserves to help local school districts build new schools.