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NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam today acknowledged Tennessee lawmakers have "hard decisions" to make regarding his call to raise fuel taxes for roads, but the Republican said so did legislators a generation ago who voted in new funding that paved the way for today's transportation system.

The Republican governor said in response to reporters' questions that some lawmakers may be balking because there is no immediate crisis, inaction will lengthen the time it takes for major projects.

"There might be that [sentiment] because we haven't felt the pain yet," Haslam said regarding some lawmakers' thoughts that the list of 900-plus projects he says will benefit will get built anyway.

But, the governor said "the reality is that we're living off of a really good transportation system that's the result of decisions made from people who came before us that made calls. 

"If the people in the late '80s hadn't made hard calls, we wouldn't have growth - I-840 wouldn't be here. Vietnam Veterans Parkway going through Sumner and Davidson wouldn't be here. I can keep going on."

As he listed other projects started and completed since the last gas and diesel tax increases enacted in 1989, the governor said  "we have to realize things don't just happen. And decisions aren't always easy but we should do what the people came before us did, come up with a responsible answer."

"The reality is that we're living off of a really good transportation system that's the result of decisions made from people who came before us that made calls," Haslam said. 

Haslam last week proposed raising the state's 21.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax by 7 cents and 18.4 cent diesel tax by 12 cents. That and other increases such as a $5-20 increase in vehicle registration depending on size, are intended to net $278 million.

At the same time, acknowledging large surpluses in general fund revenues that pay for other functions of state government, including education and housing convicts, Haslam is recommending $270 million in cuts there. Some lawmakers see it as a "tax swap" of sorts. But some lawmakers want to devote some of the surplus money to transportation, which has been a self-fund area for nearly a century.

"If the people in the late '80s hadn't made hard calls, we wouldn't have growth," the governor said.

The fact that trucking companies are in support of boosting transportation says a lot, the governor noted. 

Haslam's comments were made to reporters today in Murfreesboro where he attended an education-related event. He told students that constructing the state's multi-billion dollar budget is much like an algebra equation.

Later, he told reporters regarding the tax proposal that "you start by saying, part of our job as leaders is to look at the issues in front of us and say how are we going to solve this. Just like we're asking kids in an algebra class to solve the problem. Our answer as leaders is to solve the problem."

While "everybody comes to that from a different perspective" and has different constituents, he said, "the one thing that I insist on is to let's don't ignore the issue and don't ignore the math behind the problem."

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