With A Phased-In Gas Tax, Lawmakers Hope Tennesseans Won’t Feel A Sudden Sting

Apr 24, 2017

Tennessee drivers will soon be paying a little more for a fill-up, if the legislature increases the gas tax, as expected.

But lawmakers are also taking steps that they hope will keep Tennesseans from being shocked at the pump.

Tennessee hasn't raised its gas tax in a generation, and the goal of state lawmakers is to make a hike seem invisible when it eventually goes into effect.

It's not just consumers that lawmakers are concerned about. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris also worries about gas stations on Tennessee's borders losing business.

"We want to see what happens in surrounding states — Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and the like," he says. "But mostly it gives our citizens an opportunity to adjust."

Norris is talking about the gas tax hike's three-year phase-in. It'll start this summer, when the tax is set to rise by 4 cents a gallon. That'll be followed by another penny in 2018 and in 2019 — amounts small enough they might go unnoticed amid the typical swings in gas prices.

On the other side of the ledger will be tax cuts, particularly a drop on food. That tax goes down by a cent, starting in July.

It's a seemingly small adjustment. But it's supposed to save the average Tennessee family of four about $100 a year. Enough to offset whatever extra they spend for gas.

At least, that's what Tennessee lawmakers are hoping.