Lynn holds town hall meeting at Cumberland

Jake Old • Updated Mar 10, 2017 at 8:00 AM

State Rep. Susan Lynn held a town hall meeting at Cumberland University on Thursday evening to discuss the state’s budget and the IMPROVE Act, which proposes raising the state’s gas tax in conjunction with tax cuts in other areas.

The IMPROVE Act would increase the road user fee or gas tax by 7 cents for a gallon of gas and 12 cents for a gallon of diesel, and increase car registration fees by $5 for the average passenger vehicle, which is expected to bring in $278 million in new money for backlogged transportation projects.

Along with the increases are proposed tax cuts on food and manufacturing. According to Lynn, it could possibly include introducing an open container law into the state, which would take away a significant penalty that has to be paid by the state for not having such a law, thus opening up more funds to be distributed in different ways.

The act also calls for expediting the elimination of the Hall income tax, which is already statutorily required to be eliminated by 2022.

The state’s gas tax was last increased in 1989. Since then, the cost to repair and maintain roads has doubled, and the tax, which is an excise tax — meaning it stays consistent no matter the price of the product — is equivalent to roughly half of what it was almost 30 years ago due to inflation.

The IMPROVE Act is designed to be revenue-neutral for the state, meaning that the state will not incur added expenses. However, Lynn said the act is not “pocketbook neutral,” meaning that it will have an adverse affect on the pocketbooks of citizens.

“We are trying to do everything we can to get it to be pocketbook neutral,” Lynn said. “I know a lot of people are saying they don’t want it at all, they don’t want to pay a penny more, but we need these road projects.”

Under the IMPROVE Act, a total of 962 projects throughout the state would start within the next eight years, including 10 Wilson County road projects.

Among the Wilson County projects are two highly debated roadways in State Route 109 and South Mt. Juliet Road. The State Route 109 project is designated for the roadway from Highway 70 and north to the county line at Dry Fork Creek. The 7.5 miles of work is estimated to cost $18.5 million. The South Mt. Juliet Road project is estimated to cost $25.4 million to address the area between Central Pike and Providence Way.

Two Interstate 40 projects could address issues from Interstate 840 to Highway 70 and from State Route 109 to 840. The project’s estimated total is $94 million.

Other projects include Central Pike from Old Hickory Boulevard to Mt. Juliet Road, Highway 70 from Park Glen Drive to Bender’s Ferry Road, Hartsville Pike from south of Spring Creek to north of Lover’s Lane and Hartsville Pike from north of Lovers Lane to Highway 70.

A new interchange at I-40 and Central Pike is also listed under the interstate program and estimated at $14.2 million.

Another project would feature I-40 and stretches across Davidson, Dickson, Cheatham, Williamson and Wilson counties, estimated to cost $4 million.

Lynn also discussed the Hawk Plan, which has been presented as an alternative to the IMPROVE Act. The Hawk Plan would take about $251 million out of the state’s general fund and move it into the state’s highway fund.

The Hawk Plan also would have a 25-year build out, meaning it would 25 years before every project starts. Under the IMPROVE Act, it is an eight-year build out.

“I know we cannot wait 25 years for these road projects,” Lynn said.

The Hawk Plan would not be consistent with the user-pay principle, in which only the people who use the roads are paying those taxes, that Haslam strongly supports with the IMPROVE Act.  

The meeting was the latest in a series of town halls Lynn has led in Wilson County. She said she wants feedback from her constituents on issues the state is facing.

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