ROGERSVILLE – Former Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was in Rogersville Friday, May 19, as part of a 95-county media tour by supporters of Gov. Bill Haslam's recently passed IMPROVE Act.
That piece of legislation, Ramsey said, will provide $73,071,320 for transportation infrastructure projects in Hawkins County alone in coming years.
Ramsey, a Sullivan County Republican, is retired from the state legislature and is now lobbying for an organization called the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee.
Largest Tax Cut in State History
Ramsey said that although the IMPROVE Act, which passed the legislature on April 24, is funding much-needed roadway and bridge improvements to Hawkins County, it is also bringing about the largest tax cut in Tennessee History.
Information Ramsey provided indicated that the IMPROVE Act cuts more than $500,000,000 in taxes annually at its full implementation (three years from now) and nearly $300,000,000 in taxes in 2018.
“Tax cuts include a $113,000,000 reduction in business taxes on manufacturers and a 20-percent decrease in the sales tax on groceries that equals $125 million for all Tennesseans,” the news release said.
The former Lt. Gov. said the IMPROVE Act “creates a long-term, dedicated funding source to fix outdated transportation infrastructure by making a modest increase to the user fees” that residents and visitors pay (including a 6-cent-increase in the gasoline tax and a 10-cent increase in the diesel-fuel tax) “while providing a tax cut for the grocery, business and Hall income taxes.”
The gas tax increases are to be phased in over the next three years at two-cents per year.
A news release that Ramsey brought with him to a press conference at the Hawkins County Highway Department on Friday afternoon indicated what the coalition says is the total impact on Hawkins County.
“The increase in the user fees (fuel taxes) means Tennessee residents won't shoulder the entire burden alone, as revenue will be captured from visiting tourists and the trucks that move goods through the state,” the news release said. “This continues Tennessee's history as a pay-as-you-go state, meaning the people who use the roads pay for their upkeep.”
Ramsey said Tennessee is one of the few states in the nation that has no road debt. He noted that Tennessee finished second to Texas in a ranking of states with the best roads a few years ago. But Ramsey pointed out that he would rather Tennessee be in second place with no road debt than first with the $2 billion in road debt that Texas had at the time the ranking came out.
“It's a no-brainier,” Ramsey said.
Hawkins County Impact
“The total impact for Hawkins County is $21,051,320 for the combined revenue to cities and counties as well as the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) road and bridge projects, totaling $52,020,000 from the IMPROV Act,” the news release said.
The news release further indicated that 13 TDOT-funded projects are planned for Hawkins County with total funding of $52,020,000. It also says TDOT plans to invest $73,071,320 in Hawkins County over the next 15 years.
Information distributed by Ramsey indicated that Hawkins County is slated to receive $441,649 in new local revenue as a result of the IMPROVE Act in 2017 and more than $10.6 million over the next 15 years.
The Hawkins County highway projects to be funded as a result of the IMPROVE Act, according to Ramsey's information, include:
$452,000 to improve the Brown Bridge Road bridge over Beech Creek;
$2,170,000 to improve the AFG Road bridge over the Southern Railway;
$272,000 to improve the Old Highway 11W bridge over Cloud's Creek;
$134,000 to replace the Armstrong Road bridge over Crockett Creek in Rogersville;
$424,000 to replace the Walkers Church Road bridge over Robertson Creek;
$7,200,000 to repave Flat Gap Road (State Route 31) from Mooresburg to Adams Lane (4,51 miles);
$32,400,000 to rebuild State Route 66 from U.S. 11E in Bulls Gap to south of Speedwell Road (Old Highway 66);
$2,947,000 to replace the U.S. Highway 11W (West Stone Driver) bridge over the North Fork of the Holston River;;
$1,082,000 to replace the State Route 70 South bridge over the Southern Railway;
$598,000 to replace State Route 70 N bridge over Caney Creek;
$1,745,000 to replaced the U.S. 11W (West Stone Drive) bridge over the North Fork of the Holston River;
$2,243,000 to replace the State Route 31 bridge over Poor Valley Creek; and
$353,000 to replaced the State Route 346 (East Main Street in Surgoinsville) over Surgoinsville Creek.