Tennessee Republicans are setting the wheels in motion for a debate — at last — over raising the state's gas tax.
The tax pays for roads, and lawmakers say congestion, especially in Middle Tennessee, shows the state's old rate isn't keeping up.
Gov. Bill Haslam has been hinting at a need to raise the gas tax for two years, and recently he's been turning to the topic again.
It appears he might be making progress with GOP legislators. New House Majority Leader Glen Casada says rising gridlock could convince his Williamson County district to go along with a gas tax increase.
"I'm open to a lot of things, but the one thing I'm open to is a dedicated funding source to build more roads," he says.
Tennessee's tax ranks among the lowest in the nation, and it hasn't risen in more than two decades. Supporters of an increase say it could help the state avoid borrowing.
But a big question could be how much money would go into road construction and how much — if any — lawmakers would allow to be used for mass transit.
Casada says he does not favor using gas tax revenue for rail or other alternatives. Nashville, however, estimates it needs nearly $6 billion in federal, state and local funds for transit over the next 25 years.