Suspend the Gas Tax Now
Surprised at how quickly gasoline prices have risen, and reacting to consumer and citizen anger, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has proposed to suspended Georgia's state gasoline tax until the end of September. The Georgia legislature must approve his executive order. A vote is set for Tuesday.
Tennessee could do the same thing. We currently have a 21 cent state gasoline tax. suspending it for one month, to the end of September as in Georgia's example, would "cost" the state $55 million. We had a budget surplus last year of between $200 and $400 million, depending on who you believe. (The truth is closer to $400 million. The Department of F&A numbers don't tell you that they used a revised, end of this year budget estimate to calculate the budget surplus, rather than the voted-on budget from last year.)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation had, in the last year of Governor Sundquist two years ago, nearly one billion dollars in the bank, waiting to be spent. Unfortunately, this year Governor Bredesen signed a "long range capitol plan" that spend a lot of that money. Why? So that no other government agency could raid the extra by having it already "earmarked" for specific projects.
Still, Governor Bredesen could, today, sign an executive order himself. Do you think the General Assembly would oppose it? And we could have immediate 20 cent relief on gas prices.
Should they do it? Yes. Relief is necessary. Can they do it? Yes. The money is there. They can find it and move it around easily.
Will they do it?