NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that while officials "need to do something on the gas tax," he doesn't see pushing for any increase until next year when he can show lawmakers exactly how the new revenue would be used for state transportation needs.
Haslam told editors and publishers at the Tennessee Press Association's winter meeting in Nashville that his thoughts on whether to seek more funding were colored by several considerations.
"No. 1, were we ready to do it?" Haslam said.
The governor said there would be "heavy lifting" for him and his staff on his Insure Tennessee program, which was killed in a Senate committee in a special legislative session Wednesday, as well as on education issues in the regular session that begins next week.
Second, he said, he hasn't settled on where the extra money would come from and how it would be spent.
"I'll be honest, we're not there yet in terms of being able to make that case, in terms of something that's more than a Band-Aid on the funding side and a very specific funding list."
The governor said the state has a $2 billion backlog of road, bridge and other transportation needs.
House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said at a meeting of business groups this week that lawmakers are interested in finding ways to "broaden the base" of transportation funding to make up for losses from vehicles with better gas mileage and electric cars.
Harwell said she doesn't expect any type of increase to be enacted this year.
A recent report from the state comptroller showed that current fuel taxes don't raise enough money to maintain existing infrastructure and meet long-term transportation needs.
The state's 21.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1989. The 17.4-cents-per-gallon diesel tax was last raised in 1990. Talks to date have included discussions of indexing taxes to fuel costs and mileage charges for commercial and electric vehicles.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.