published Thursday, June 19th, 2014

DesJarlais questions whether GOP primary foe Tracy would back Corker's proposed tax increase

NASHVILLE -- U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais today 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.

He said that in the Tennessee General Assembly Tracy introduced similar legislation that would increase Tennessee's gasoline tax by also basing it on the CPI.

“If state Sen. Tracy wants to represent Tennesseans in Congress, voters deserve to know how he would vote on the recent Senate proposal to raise gas taxes – especially one that mirrors legislation he championed in the General Assembly,” DesJarlais said in a statement.

He said "it stands to reason that if Jim Tracy introduced legislation raising gas taxes in Tennessee, he would do the same if elected to Congress.”

Corker has proposed a 12-cent increase in federal gas and diesel taxes over the next two years in order to forestall the federal Highway Trust Fund from going bust in late August.

The plan calls for annual inflationary increases to keep the fund, which helps pay for state highways, bridges and transit programs, solvent.

Tracy campaign manager Stephanie Jarnigan said in an email that DesJarlais "has continued to run a negative desperate campaign focused on twisting the facts like they do in Washington.

"The truth is, Jim Tracy has been the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee since 2007. Under Jim's leadership there have been NO gas tax increases. In fact, Tennessee has no debt on our roads."

In 2009, Tracy sponsored the Senate version of a bill dealing with license plates. It was amended by the House sponsor, then-Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, to peg Tennessee's gas tax to annual increases in the Consumer Price Index.

Tracy told the Knoxville News Sentinel at the time that "we're working on it. It's not finalized. We have some other things to look at." Asked if he backed the concept of indexing, Tracy was quoted saying road building costs had increased some 40 percent while Tennessee transportation revenues remained flat.

"We know we have to do something," he was quoted saying by the News Sentinel and adding that he recognizes it if "very tough" to propose any sort of tax increase in the current economic climate.

Tracy never brought the bill up in the Senate committee.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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