Early Showdown for Gas Tax Hike Proposal

The 12-cent indexed gas tax hike isn't even a formal bill, yet it's making waves in a Republican Congressional primary in Sen. Bob Corker's home state of Tennessee. One candidate challenged another to take a position on it.

2 minute read

June 22, 2014, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Will supporting the bipartisan tax plan be the death knell for a Republican, particularly one engaged in a primary battle? 

"U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais today (June 19) questioned whether his GOP primary rival, state Sen Jim Tracy, would support U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s proposed plan to raise the gas tax by tying it to inflation," writes Andy Sher.

Tracy's candidacy webpage boasts of his conservative endorsements. Many conservative groups like Club for Growth and The Heritage Foundation oppose any increase in the gas tax, preferring a devolution approach to federal transportation finance. [See below].

DesJarlais is essentially playing the "he'll increase your gas taxes" card on his opponent, noting that "Tracy introduced similar legislation that would increase Tennessee's gasoline tax by also basing it on the CPI," though he "never brought the bill up in the Senate committee."

Tracy's response: "Under Jim's leadership there have been NO gas tax increases," states his campaign manager.

Asked (by the Knoxville News Sentinelif he backed the concept of indexing, Tracy was quoted saying road building costs had increased some 40 percent while Tennessee transportation revenues remained flat.

Tennessee's gas tax, 21.40 cents, is the nation's 38th lowest [PDF]. Most unusually, it's diesel tax is three cents lower. The gas tax hasn't been raised in 25 years.

Judging by the defensive responses by Tracy, Corker may have a difficult time selling his Republican colleagues in the U.S. Senate on his bipartisan plan to keep roads and transit funded, particularly if they are challenged in primaries.

While DesJarlais has indicated his own position on federal transportation finance, if he takes a cue from the Club for Growth, he'll advocate for "devolution, in which money and decisions about spending it would be given to state and local governments," writes Ashley Halsey III in The Washington Post.

"Rather than perpetuate this failed system (of funding from federal gas taxes), Congress should devolve highway funding to the states and let them fund their own infrastructure needs,” said Chris Chocola, the group’s president. [See his video and prior post here describing a devolution bill.]

Heritage Foundation's Emily J. Goff explains devolution in "opposing view" for USA Today.

Thursday, June 19, 2014 in Chattanooga Times Free Press

Aerial view of homes on beach in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii Passes First Legislation Regulating Short-Term Rentals Statewide

The new law will give counties the power to limit number or short-term rentals and convert existing short-term rental units back into long-term residential housing.

May 13, 2024 - USA Today

Google office building in Virginia.

Virginia Data Centers Draining State’s Water Supply

Being the world’s largest data center hub is having a severe impact on local water resources.

May 9, 2024 - Grist

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state.

Northwest Power Demand Could Surge as Data Centers, Transportation Electrification Ramps Up

New estimates project a steady increase in electricity demand due to population growth, data centers, and the shift to electric power in homes, buildings, and transportation.

May 17 - Governing

Blurred traffic speeding by on freeway with Los Angeles skyline in background.

California Testing Per-Mile Gas Tax Alternatives

A summer pilot program will test the fairness and efficacy of collection mechanisms for mileage-based fee options.

May 17 - Newsweek

Close-up of 'Pay rent' note in red marker on day 1 of monthly calendar.

After Months of Decreases, Rents Nationwide Are Going Up

Average rents rose by $12 around the country so far this year.

May 17 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.