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State Sen. Jim Tracy

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee Senate Transportation Chairman Jim Tracy today called for repayment of $280 million in state highway funds he says were "raided" between 2001 and 2008.

The Shelbyville Republican's call comes with lawmakers expected to consider legislation next year to raise new funds through taxes and/or fees for road construction and repair.

"We have a covenant with our citizens that the gas tax charged by the state at the pump is dedicated to transportation-related purposes and not something totally unrelated," Tracy said in a news release.

He said he would submit an appropriations amendment next year to the state budget seeking repayment.

"It is such an important principle in some states that it is provided for in their Constitutions," Tracy said. "This money should have never been diverted for other state government purposes and should have been paid back at the first available opportunity."

Instead, Tracy said, "we still have a $280 million hole at a time when we are struggling greatly to fund repairs and priority projects.  It's past time for these funds to be paid back."

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