Harwell maneuvering to block Haslam tax plans

Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package cleared the House Finance Committee Wednesday, but then House Speaker Beth Harwell said she’s developing another plan – one without a gas tax increase – that could derail the governor’s proposal next week.

The Times-Free Press says the move by Harwell, widely expected to announce as a candidate for governor after the session ends, blindsided Haslam, Senate Speaker Randy McNally and some other Republican leaders.

Harwell’s spokeswoman Kara Owen confirmed the lawmaker has been talking with Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk, R-Greeneville, and two other GOP leaders to develop an alternative that does not include a gas tax increase.

“The details have not been fully developed yet,” Owen said in an email, “but they are working diligently to offer something. [Harwell] knows members have a desire to find a solution for our transportation and infrastructure funding, and is encouraged by that agreement.

…Hawk, whose effort to divert existing sales taxes to the highway fund was shoved aside earlier this session in committee, revealed the effort as Haslam’s yet-again revised bill cleared the House Budget Subcommittee earlier in the day.

…Budget Subcommittee Chairman Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, noted he had heard Hawk’s comments in the subcommittee, but he was taken aback at the speaker’s office’s statement.

“I think if you want to kill the bill, just come out and try to kill the bill,” McCormick said… Senators won’t go for it, McCormick predicted, a view that found quick confirmation from Senate Speaker McNally..

McNally said in a statement he has “been involved in no discussions regarding an alternative amendment, as you describe it.”

He said the Senate’s IMPROVE Act version, awaiting action next week in the upper chamber’s Finance Committee, is “a clear and undisputed tax cut for Tennesseans and offers additional cuts for the veterans and the elderly.

“These crucial and unprecedented cuts are only guaranteed funding in the current plan,” McNally added. “This is why it has my unequivocal support. While we are certainly open to discussions with our friends in the House, I believe the basic structure of the plan as amended is sound.”

Note: In an interview on Nashville talk radio, reported by Tennessee Star, Harwell indicates the alternative will involve shifting a portion of the sales tax revenue from purchases of new and used cars to the highway fund instead of increasing fuel taxes — an idea first proposed by Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, that failed as an amendment offered in committee.

One Response to Harwell maneuvering to block Haslam tax plans

  • Avatar
    Michael Lottman says:

    Harwell’s seeming propensity for deviousness and secrecy is unseemly in a Speaker and would be disastrous in a governor. Besides, this “gas tax” bill, which is becoming a misnomer, was supposed to be a way to raise revenues for a small part of the $10 billion in needed infrastructure maintenance– not just another bonanza of tax reductions for businesses, the rich, and others. Our legislators, with few exceptions, are too timid to risk supporting an increase of revenues even to pay for necessary and long-postponed road and bridge repairs. I guess nothing passes without the personal blessing of Grover Norquist–but who elected him?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *