Ron Ramsey: House members were punished for opposing gas tax hike

Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says there was “some punishment” levied against state House members who opposed Gov. Bill Haslam’s fuel tax increases, reports the Johnson City Press. He spoke at a Transportation Coalition of Tennessee press conference, one of several being held around the state by the group that promoted the fuel tax and hired Ramsey as a consultant.

“I think there is some in the House who would not vote for any kind of, what they perceived as, a tax increase. And that’s just wrong because the overall bill cut taxes,” Ramsey… said. “There was no doubt, in the end, that there was some punishment levied against some House members on funding. Not against the Senate members, but against the House members.”

Examples given by Ramsey included the Senate approving funding proposals for the Sullivan County Agriculture Center and East Tennessee State University, but the House then removing portions of that funding.

“Well, Timothy Hill’s district is the Ag Center. That’s one. I even made a phone call to say, ‘That this is kind of my pet project.’ It’s not up to the House members on that, but still they felt like it was time to ‘exact a pound of flesh’ was exactly the words that I heard,” Ramsey said.

While that logic may apply to most Northeast Tennessee House members who voted against Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, it did not appear to impact Reps. John Holtsclaw and Timothy Hill’s districts.

Holsclaw voted in favor of the bill, but Unicoi County, which he represents, was absent from TDOT’s upcoming road projects report. The Carter County portion of Holsclaw’s 4th District has two projects listed. 

Despite Rep. Timothy Hill’s “nay” vote, the Sullivan County portion of his 3rd District also has two projects included in the report.

Johnson, Washington, and Greene counties were all missing from the TDOT road projects report.

“(The lack of Washington County projects) goes back to the House members causing havoc,” Ramsey said. “Actions have consequences. When I was in the legislature, let me assure you, actions had consequences. I’m not speaking for anybody other than that, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

Ramsey called some alternative road funding proposals, such as one by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, “irresponsible” for attempting to use general fund monies to pay for the backlog of highway projects.

Note: Ramsey’s remarks are also the focus of a Kingsport Times-News report. Elsewhere, the news conferences seem to have focused on praising local projects approved in each area. The Times Free Press has a report on the Chattanooga Coalition press conference HERE. The Business Journal report on the Memphis gathering, HERE.

UPDATE: Tennessee Star followed up HERE (apparently relying on the newspaper reports, but without credit) to review previous talk of retaliation against ant-tax legislators and a contention that Ramsey maybe was lobbying without registering and contrary to the state law saying a legislator can’t lobby for  year after leaving office.

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