ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — A resolution calling for the repeal of the state’s grocery tax and a pause of the state’s gasoline tax failed to get the approval of Carter County commissioners Monday night.
The measure was rejected with 19 of 24 commissioners voting against it.
The resolution called on the Tennessee state government to repeal the 27-cent per gallon gas tax and place a moratorium on the four-cent grocery tax.
Several commissioners spoke out against the resolution because if the state did what the resolution asked, it could cost the county highway department millions of dollars.
“That particular conversation about taxation itself has got to occur before we ask the state to repeal that tax,” Commissioner Aaron Frazier said. “If we don’t have a plan in place, we just can’t do anything.”
The resolution’s sponsor, Commissioner Bob Acuff, said his constituents need relief from the gas tax.
“If I fill up once a week for four weeks, that’s almost $22 dollars,” Acuff said, referring to how much the gas tax would cost. “A lot of my constituents in the First District can not afford that. They’re having to make decisions on whether we buy groceries, whether we pay the medical bill.”
But in the 27 cent gas tax, 10 cents goes to cities and counties and that could mean millions of dollars lost even during a temporary halt to the gas tax. Frazier said that money goes to the county highway department and losing it would require finding new funding avenues.
“He’s got 27 critical projects. We’ve got to make sure that we are prepared if we’re going to be doing away with that gas tax, how we’re going to address that without raising property taxes,” Frazier said.
Acuff said he sees a state surplus in collected taxes that could pay for a gas tax halt.
“The state is carrying $2.15 billion in excess,” Acuff said. “Some of that excess where those funds could go to fund counties, make sure that folks get a relief at the pump.”
Two states, Georgia and Maryland, have temporarily suspended their gas taxes.
With tourism season looming, many commissioners expressed concern that calling on the state to eliminate the taxes could incur massive losses to county revenue.
“People, you know, coming into our town and spending tourism money and spending gas. Every gallon that they buy, they help support our county for the roads they drive,” said Commissioner Mark Tester.
Although the gas tax will not be halted in Carter County, drivers are seeing a slight decrease in fuel prices at the pump.
According to AAA, gas in Carter County on Monday was below $4.00 per gallon.
In Johnson City, gas is averaging $4.01, down almost 10 cents from one week ago.