House Speaker Beth Harwell to GOP Caucus on gas tax vote: ‘Try to keep personalities out of it’


April 18, 2017 — With Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax bill scheduled to hit the House and Senate floors on Wednesday, GOP House Speaker Beth Harwell on Monday urged divided fellow Republicans to “try to keep personalities out of it” during debate.

Harwell, who intends to seek the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination, for several months avoided stating her stance publicly. But earlier this month, her opposition to the fuel tax increases went public as Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk, R-Greeneville, cited her support when he unsuccessfully presented an alternative plan to divert sales tax revenue from new and used vehicle sales as an alternative.

[T]he nonpartisan Sycamore Institute released a 20-year look at how both vehicle sales and fuel taxes have fared.

“The data shows that gas tax collections in the last two decades have been relatively stable from one year to the next,” the Sycamore Institute says in its comparison of both sources of funding. “Automobile sales during the same period have experienced more overall growth with higher volatility. Lawmakers should weigh the trade-offs of both revenue sources when considering how they will vote later this week.”

State sales taxes on vehicles dipped by nearly 20 percent during the 2008 recession, according to a graph. Fuel taxes dipped by about 5 percent during that time.

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