AFP isn’t opposing Haslam’s gas tax plan — at least not yet

Andrew Ogles, president of the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity, says he had a “very, very good conversation” with Gov. Bill Haslam last week and that his group is holding off on opposing the governor’s tax proposals until details are made public.

Haslam’s office announced on Tuesday that the governor will have a news conference Wednesday to outline will a portion of his 2017 legislative agenda that will “focus on building and sustaining economic growth and the state’s competitiveness for the next generation of Tennesseans.”

According to the Times-Free Press, who has previously indicated general opposition to any tax increase, adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward Haslam’s 2017 move.

Ogles said that given the state’s nearly $1.9 billion revenue surplus in non-fuel tax areas like sales and corporate taxes which fund most other areas of government — almost $1 billion of it is in one-time money — he wants to get an overall picture of what Haslam wants the GOP-dominated Legislature to do.

“I think what we need to see is what is the spending plan, how are you going to use those dollars,” Ogles said last week as members of the new 110th General Assembly completed their organizational session. “And then, at a time like this, this is when you look at ways to cut taxes versus raise them.”

Top legislative leaders are already saying any gas and diesel increases sought by Haslam need to be accompanied by corresponding cuts in other areas such as the sales tax, corporate franchise and excise taxes and/or other areas.

“So I don’t want to jump to any conclusions,” said Ogles, whose deep-pocketed group in 2015 helped successfully frame opposition through radio attack ads criticizing Haslam’s proposed Medicaid expansion, called Insure Tennessee, as well as several Republican lawmakers it viewed as supportive of it.

AFP-Tennessee’s parent organization is the highly influential Americans for Prosperity, founded by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The group advocates for low taxes and less government involvement.

… “We’ll look at the details. And then we’ll make recommendations to the administration, the governor, and see if we can’t come to kind of an agreeable solution that protects hard-working families.”

Still, he noted “ultimately, the people in the rural communities bear the brunt of the gas tax because they travel the furthest. Our veterans are driving to VA hospitals.”

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