Tennessee Rep. Carter pulls bill restricting gas tax use for greenways, bike lanes

Rep. Mike Carter
photo Sen. Todd Gardenhire

NASHVILLE -- A controversial legislative bill restricting Tennessee cities and counties' use of gas taxes for parks, greenways, bike lanes and similar infrastructure is dead for the year.

Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, confirmed he took the bill off notice today after it became clear the Senate Finance Committee wouldn't proceed with the companion measure sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga.

The bill drew opposition from biking enthusiasts as well as concerns from at least some cities.

"It got pulled in the Senate so there's no reason to run it," Carter said.

"It's not a 'bike trail bill.' You've been here long enough to know. What it does is it says here's what we're going to spend your gas tax money on. So the next year when the gas tax bill runs, people can decide 'I want to raise my money for this purpose or for this purpose.' And they can decide.

"It's actually an honesty in government bill, which is revolutionary and would be very difficult to pass."

Bike Walk, an advocacy group, mobilized members to oppose the legislation. The bill was amended substantially and provided a number of exceptions. For example, one provision would have let local governments continue to use fuel tax revenues for bike lanes and sidewalks on roads with posted speed limits under 35 miles per hours. But it required an engineering study.

But critics and many senators were uncomfortable.

Asked whether he would re-introduce the bill next year, Carter said no. But with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam expected to ask lawmakers to approve increases in fuel taxes for transportation, Carter said the issue of how the state currently spends some of its money will come up.

"The gas tax bill next year will bring it to the forefront far better than i could this year. (not bring back)."