ERWIN, TN (WJHL-TV) – With the announcement of the passing of the IMPROVE Act in Tennessee, it left several people in upper East Tennessee confused as to what the new act would mean for their communities.
To help alleviate the confusion, State Senator Rusty Crowe held a town hall meeting in Erwin and invited road superintendents from Carter, Unicoi and Washington counties, city and county mayors from the three counties as well as members of the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Much of the confusion came from what some residents concerns about them thinking that Washington and Unicoi counties apparently being left off of the initial list of projects that the IMPROVE Act would help fund. Sen. Crowe used the meeting to help clear up the confusion and assured everyone that there were indeed many bridge and road projects in each county that would be completed and that these projects just were not far enough along to show up on these initial lists.
“I think, as you saw this morning, people are excited about the numbers of projects, the paving, 20, 30 40 bridges in some of the counties that are going to be fixed, so school buses can feel safe,”, Crowe said, “A lot of the older bridges didn’t have the weight capacity for some of the trucks and school buses that are going over them, so we had to do something.”
As part of the IMPROVE Act, several taxes will be going down, but the gas tax will be going up six cents over the next three years, four cents the first year and one cent each the next two years. The tax on diesel fuel will be going up ten cents also over the next three years, four the first year and three each the next two. These are the first increases in the gas/fuel tax in 30 years.
“Taxes are never easy to vote for, but we’re talking six cents after 30 years, ” Crowe said, “What something cost back in 1990, right after they passed the last tax, $9 or 10 million is now $30 million because cars are getting better gas mileage, they’re heavier, the materials for building roads cost so much more. It’s like a house that you looked at 20 years ago, maybe $200,000, today is $350,000.”
The increase in the gas tax will allow tourists and over the road truckers to pick up a large portion of the increase.
Crowe added, “A great majority of the gas tax will be paid for by people coming thru TN that aren’t our citizens and almost 50% of the diesel will be paid for by out of state business coming thru Tennessee.”
According to Crowe, Tennessee is second only to Texas as having the best roads in the nation, and Texas has a more than $20 billion debt on their roads and bridges and Tennessee has no debt on their roads at all.
“We got to the point, because we pay as we go and we don’t borrow money, that we were having a hard time fixing the pot holes and making sure that the bridges were safe so that school buses could go over them.”, Crowe said.
Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.