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VOL. 40 | NO. 47 | Friday, November 18, 2016

Haslam still seeking consensus on transportation funding

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NASHVILLE (AP) - The dust may have settled on legislative elections and leadership votes, but Republican Gov. Bill Haslam doesn't appear any closer to divulging his plans for boosting transportation funding in Tennessee.

Haslam told reporters on Monday that he has been meeting with lawmakers and officials to find ways to address what he described as a $6 billion backlog in road projects.

"It's time to bring the Legislature into that," Haslam said. "We can't get anything done unless they agree."

The governor said the challenge will be to come up with a transportation proposal that's equally acceptable to rural and urban residents - and the politicians who represent them.

"Whether you live in downtown Nashville or you live in Pulaski, we have to have a plan that works for all of those," Haslam said in a speech before the Nashville Rotary Club. "The challenging piece of that is obviously how are you going to pay for it."

Each penny of the state's 21.4-cent tax on each gallon of gas is worth about $31 million in annual revenue. The tax was last raised by 4 cents in 1989.

A wide-ranging transit plan for the Nashville region alone is projected to cost $6 billion over the next 25 years.

"Even if you look at what we bring in new-money wise, it's not going to make a huge dent," Haslam said. "So there's going to have to be a wide variety of solutions."

The governor said it will take recognition in Middle Tennessee that a long-range transit plan for Nashville will have to be part of the equation if the city is going to continue being a growth engine for the region.

Haslam has been trying to draw attention to Tennessee's transportation funding needs for two years, but decided against making a specific proposal to address the issue as lawmakers headed into the election season.

Now he's making the case that it's time to act before he leaves office in 2018.

"Sooner rather than later is better when you have a governor in the last two year of his term rather than someone coming in new," he said.

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