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Tracy Expects New Ideas Will Fuel Transportation Funding Discussions

Tennessee lawmakers and transportation officials agree the state will soon be primed for a discussion on finding alternative ways of pumping funds into roads and other government-run transportation systems.

Those ideas could include finding ways to tax motorists driving electric cars, or charging drivers user-fees based on the mileage they rack up on public roads, said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.

“I don’t see gas tax at all being in the picture as we speak,” Tracy said. “I see us looking at an overall picture of funding for transportation at the local level, at the county level, at the state level, looking at the overall picture of funding for transportation.”

Sen. Tracy said he plans to assemble a task force to meet “in the latter part of 2012,” which means voters won’t likely get a preview of the discussions prior to the primary elections in August or the general in November.

Tennessee Transportation Commissioner John Schroer told Republican Gov. Bill Haslam during last month’s budget hearings the state needs to begin thinking about how to compensate for the dropping gas tax revenues that are due in part to more fuel-efficient vehicles on the roads.

The governor has said the issue is one that needs addressing soon, but he doesn’t see it happening for several years.

Haslam echoed those sentiments Tuesday, telling reporters at some point the state is going to need to look at the transportation taxes, “or we’re going to be down to where we can’t fund just the basics of our road and bridge program in Tennessee.”

“My suggestion, whether it be this piece or that, let’s take a comprehensive look at the whole way we do that. My sense is we’re still a year or two away from that, from having a comprehensive approach.”

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