By: Sam Stockard
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is challenging Sen. Jim Tracy on a measure to raise the nation's gas tax by tying it to the Consumer Price Index, contending his opponent backed a similar bill in the state Legislature.
"If state Sen. Tracy wants to represent Tennesseans in Congress, voters deserve to know how he would vote on the recent Senate proposal to raise gas taxes -- especially one that mirrors legislation he championed in the General Assembly," DesJarlais said in a written statement. "It stands to reason that if Jim Tracy introduced legislation raising gas taxes in Tennessee, he would do the same if elected to Congress."
DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg Republican trying to fend off Tracy in the Aug. 7 Republican primary, previously announced his opposition to a measure by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Chattanooga, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, to link the gas tax to the CPI, raising it 12 cents over two years to build highway infrastructure.
Reached by phone Thursday, Tracy, chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee, said he "never supported a gas tax since I've been in the General Assembly."
A campaign statement released a short time later states, "Congressman DesJarlais has continued to run a negative, desperate campaign focused on twisting the facts like they do in Washington. The truth is, Jim Tracy has been the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee since 2007. Under Jim's leadership there have been NO gas tax increases. In fact, Tennessee has no debt on our roads."
But an April 2009 Associated Press article reported that Tracy sponsored legislation to create a new system for adjusting Tennessee gas taxes based on the CPI.
"We're working on it. It's not finalized," he was quoted as saying. "We have some other things to look at."
Asked about indexing, the Bedford County Republican said road construction costs, which are paid for through the gas tax, had gone up 40 percent as revenue stayed the same.
"We know we have to do something," he is quoted as saying.
The legislation drew opposition five years ago from the Tennessee Petroleum Institute and Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association, according to the article.