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IMPROVE Act to bring in $13.5M for local road projects

Posted on Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 10:34 am

Governor Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act will provide millions of dollars to Moore County for road and bridge repairs. The law, passed last month, target’s the state’s $10.5B backlog of transportation projects. According to The Transportation Coalition the act also is the largest tax cut in state history. The Coalition predicts the legislation will bring in over $13.5M, over a 15 year period, to deal with aging infrastructure. Currently there are three TDoT projects slated for work in Moore County but have set idle as a result of budget constraints at the state level. The Transportation Coalition of Tennessee made its way around Tennessee’s 95 counties recently, stopping in Moore County to present information about what local revenue estimates look like once the IMPROVE Act is in full-swing. The IMPROVE Act, controversial throughout the legislative process, primarily due to the inclusion of a tax on fuel, is projected to cut over $50M in taxes annually. These cuts come from a reduction in business taxes for manufacturers and a 20 percent decrease in grocery taxes. The coalition estimates Moore County will receive additional funding of $410,000 for the 2017-18 fiscal year budget a result of revenue generated from the fuel tax. In Moore County, three road and bridge projects are on the immediate to-do list at a total cost of approximately $7M which is to be allocated by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Over the next 15 years, Metro Moore County will receive just over $13.5M. “There’s a tremendous need. Tennessee counties have had a terrible time. They haven’t had the money to do what they need to do for quite some time,” Kasey Anderson, Executive Director of American Council of Engineering Companies in Tennessee, said. “The counties and cities of Tennessee need the money. It’s still going to be a struggle to keep everything kept up, but [the revenue] is going to be a tremendous help.” Many detractors of the tax plan argued against leveling a fuel tax instead of using the state’s surplus for infrastructure projects. “There have been passionate arguments on both sides of this debate, but in the long run this tax will provide much needed revenue for the counties and cities throughout the state,” Anderson reported. “So, what we’re proposing is to add the equivalent of 5 cents per gallon to the existing federal highway user fee, the gas tax. That hasn’t been increased for the last 23 years. “The cost to the average motorist will be small, but the benefit to our transportation system will be immense… The program will not increase the federal deficit or add to the taxes that you and I pay on April 15. It will be paid for by those of us who use the system, and it will cost the average car owner only about $30 a year. That’s less than the cost of a couple of shock absorbers”, Ronald Reagan said in advocating for his groundbreaking 1982 transportation bill that included a gas tax increase. “The IMPROVE Act cuts the food tax and Hall Income Tax by a full percentage point, provides property tax relief for veterans, the elderly and disabled, and reduces franchise and excise taxes on manufacturing businesses, resulting in a net tax break for Tennesseans.” “The F&E tax reduction will boost job growth by making Tennessee more competitive with neighboring states.” “Tennessee’s legislature has cut $438 million in annual taxes since 2011, and with the passage of the IMPROVE Act, that amount will climb to about $540 M.” “It’s not just about potholes. It’s about public safety. Many of our state’s bridges are in such disrepair that firetrucks cannot cross them to get to a house fire.” “Transportation infrastructure is critical to job growth. An annual $278 million increase in highway and bridge construction investment in Tennessee will have an immediate impact on all sectors of the state’s economy by generating about 6,217 jobs.” “Infrastructure is a basic function of government. We have been blessed in Tennessee with a pay-as-you go road system that relies on user fees, rather than general fund taxes, tolls or debt financing. It is a sound fiscal practice.” “It is about making our roads safe and inviting new job growth, while keeping our state’s conservative financial practices the top rated in the nation,” said Tennessee Senator Jim Tracy. Tracy is a Republican from Shelbyville and represents Tennessee District 14 which includes Moore, Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, and parts of Rutherford Counties