House OKs Senate amendments, sends gas tax bill to governor

The House went along Monday night with Senate amendments to Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package, including increases in the state levies on gasoline and diesel fuel, giving the measure final approval and sending it to the governor for his signature.

The vote was 67-21. The House had approved the overall bill last earlier on a 60-37 vote.

The key amendment added by the Senate Thursday was to increase state-funded property tax relief for disabled veterans to cover the first $175,000 value of their home. Currently, only the first $100,000 is covered.

The House – especially those who had opposed the overall Haslam bill, known as the IMPROVE Act — had pushed to have the veterans tax relief included in a separate bill. But even some who voted against the overall bill went along with the amendments, even though protesting the procedure.

Rep. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, acting as sponsor of Haslam’s bill, said separate legislation dealing with only the veterans bill is dead in the Senate, though it has passed the House. And he said the Senate version of veterans tax relief bill raised the home value to just $135,000, not the $175,000 that is in the Senate amendment to the IMPROVE Act.

Further, from the Times-Free Press:

“You’re not voting for or against the bill itself,” Transportation Committee Chairman Barry Doss, R-Leoma, told his colleagues.

While technically correct, the action nonetheless resulted in final approval of Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, which raises fuel taxes for the state’s dedicated highway fund for the first time since 1989.

Doss’ assertion, echoed by a number of fellow Republicans, prompted considerable debate. But in the end, after repeatedly condemning the Senate over its action in including the property tax provisions that gas tax opponents wanted handled separately, the amendments were approved in one fell swoop.

…House members had standalone bills that sought to restore that and the provisions for seniors, and they were furious over the issue’s inclusion in the IMPROVE Act.

Norris said he included raising the veterans’ and the seniors’ provisions in the bill because he feared Haslam would veto them if handled as a separate bill. The governor has agreed to accept the provisions and the estimated $7 million it would cost the state annually.

As some House Republicans fumed, Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, joined others in denouncing the inclusion of various tax cuts and the property tax relief in the bill as more in the line with what Congress does.

“Let’s be very careful from this point forward from putting multiple topics on one bill,” Casada said. “That’s not leadership. That’s bribery.”

Nonetheless, Casada, who voted against the original bill last week, voted for the amendments. Still, other leaders including GOP Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams of Cookeville and Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk, R-Greeneville, couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the final bill. Williams simply didn’t cast a vote. Hawk voted no.

Note: A copy of the AP story on the final vote is HERE. The Tennessee Star centered its coverage on criticizing Casada, who issued a press release defending his yes vote on the amendments though he was opposed to the overall bill. And the Haslam press release hailing the vote is HERE.

 

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