Political notebook: Radio ads hope to stall gas tax talk

Radio ads hope to stall gas tax talk

NASHVILLE - A conservative group hopes to siphon off support for a gas tax increase in Tennessee's Legislature this year with a 60-second radio spot targeting comments by Gov. Bill Haslam that he may still pursue a boost this session.

Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee's ad calls any tax increase "illogical."

"We will fight a gas tax increase in Tennessee for as long as necessary," AFP-Tennessee director Andrew Ogles said in a statement. "This ad is intended to inform taxpayers in our state about why a gas tax hike costly and unnecessary."

The group isn't saying how much it's spending to air the spot. It criticizes any fuel-tax increase and seeks to tie discussions to Tennessee's $1 billion budget surplus.

In the ad, Ogles says: "Tennessee has over a billion-dollar surplus from the past two years. That's right. Over the past two years, Tennessee taxpayers have been overtaxed by a billion dollars. But some in our state think this is the time to raise taxes with a tax increase at the gas pumps."

He adds, "The only way to hold down what what big government will spend is to limit what we send. We should decide how to spend our money."

Haslam said the surplus is in the state's general fund, which is separate from the transportation fund. He said Tennessee has a $6 billion backlog of unfunded needs.

Haslam considered pushing for more transportation money last year but abandoned the idea after top Republicans, including House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, said they wouldn't back a tax increase.

But earlier this month, Haslam deputy Jim Henry told House Transportation Committee members the administration planned to speak with members about their transportation needs and was looking at possibly bringing a funding proposal forward.

Administration officials initially downplayed Henry's remarks to the Times Free Press, but Haslam last week told reporters his administration is indeed sounding out lawmaker support for what would be the first fuel tax increase since 1989.

Haslam said, "If people are saying, 'I do want to do this in my district,' then we'll come back with a full plan."

"If people say, 'I'm interested in this, but I don't want to do anything at all on addressing fuel tax,' then we won't do it," Haslam added.

Assessor candidate opens campaign office

Mark Siedlecki, Democratic candidate for Hamilton County Assessor of Property, has opened a campaign office on Bailey Avenue, according to a news release.

The release says Siedlecki founded his first company when he was 19, and after 40 years of success in the private sector, he wants to use his experience in the technology industry to modernize the office of property assessor. The goal is to make public services better and more accessible to local residents, the release states.

The staffed campaign office will host phone banks, canvasses, and other events to get the community involved. For more information, visit www.MarkForAssessor.com or contact Volunteer Coordinator Jessica Lundquist at Jessica@MarkFor Assessor.com or 423-591-5000.

Siedlecki faces Republican nominee Marty Haynes in the August general election.

JFK club to hear from local imam

Hammad El-Ameen, imam of the Masjid Muhammad mosque in Chattanooga, will be the guest speaker at the JFK Club meeting Tuesday.

El-Ameen will speak about living as a Muslim in Chattanooga, and will answer questions from the audience.

The JFK Club meets at noon in the Foundry at The Chattanoogan hotel. The lunch buffet is $15 including tax and tip. Valet parking is free if you have your parking ticket stamped by the receptionist in the dining room.