After IMPROVE, Haslam promotes benefits while AFP trashes ‘massive $2 billion tax hike’

While Gov. Bill Haslam is touting the benefits of his IMPROVE Act tax package, Americans for Prosperity is doing just the opposite in its own statewide campaign, according to reports in the Knoxville News Sentinel and in the Kingsport Times News.

The governor, speaking at an IMPROVE Act promotional event in Elizabethton last week, said the road projects funded by the package’s fuel tax increase will have a “huge economic impact” benefiting the state.

“We’re also putting money back in citizens’ hands. They will have more money to grocery shop … the other thing is the cut on manufacturers. Somebody like Eastman obviously produces a lot of jobs. Eastman will now have more incentive to keep those jobs in Tennessee because the tax they pay as a manufacturer will be more in line with our neighboring states.”

AFP Tennessee, meanwhile, is going around the state holding rallies to thank legislators who voted against the Haslam-sponsored measure and cites an American Legislative Exchange (ALEC) statement saying the overall package means Tennesseans will pay a net of $2 billion in additional taxes over the next ten years – despite the grocery tax cuts and corporate tax cuts.

“We knew the Improve Act was a tax increase for most Tennesseans,” AFP-TN State Director Andy Ogles said. “It is a shame only 43 lawmakers opposed this massive two-billion-dollar tax hike even as Tennessee had over a billion-dollar surplus, but those that did stand up for taxpayers deserve our thanks.”

(Note: The ALEC comment is included in a June “State of the States” roundup on gubernatorial doings nationwide. The whole thing, including the Tennessee portion, is HERE. The AFP press release is HERE. A Haslam news release on his promotional efforts is HERE.)

In the News Sentinel, Georgiana Vines quotes Greg Butcher, a recent UT graduate who is coordinating things at AFP’s office in Knoxville, where the next event in the group’s statewide effort is planned for Saturday. It includes volunteers contacting voters through phone calls.

“Stopping the gas tax hike was a top policy priority for AFP-TN,” he said. The group’s “grassroots pressure” kept the tax from being higher, he said.

“The goal is educating voters on the issue, gauging where they are. If (those being called) say they want lower taxes, we will hold (those in office) accountable to them,” Butcher said.

He said AFP-TN would like to see the gas tax reduced but realistically “we won’t see (any prospects) until after the governor’s race” in 2018. “We don’t want the issue of the gas tax to go away. We’ll keep focusing on it. It’s such a key issue for us,” Butcher said.

… He said some 70 people attended a meeting in Farragut where state Reps. Jason Zachary and Roger Kane, Knoxville Republicans who voted against the tax hike, were showcased.

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