Having only two Knox County state representatives who voted against implementing a 6-cent per gallon state gas tax in a losing effort — Rep. Jason Zachary, R-District 14 that includes Farragut and Concord and Rep Roger Kane, R-District 89 that includes Hardin Valley — an Americans For Prosperity-sponsored political forum told of an often hostile 110th General Assembly experience in Nashville for both representatives.
“This was my fifth year. This was the most contentious, nasty year I think I’ve had in the legislature,” Kane said to a mostly Republican gathering of about 70 at O’Charley’s in Turkey Creek Tuesday evening, May 23.
“Very frustrating. I try to go into it with a happy-go-lucky, Christ-like attitude. You just get pounded every day. It’s a little hard.
“Jesus said, ‘turn the other cheek,’ but when your cheeks are all bloody …,” Kane added, interrupted by laughter.
“Every Monday when we go to session, we have somewhere between 40 and 200 people yelling and screaming outside the chamber doors,” Kane added. “Everyone from animal rights [activists] to female rights, immigrant rights. It’s just a hodge-podge of people, they’ve all got signs, they’re all screaming … that’s how we get greeted every Monday when we go into session.”
About his strong opposition to the gas tax, Kane said he talked to Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican who led the charge to implement the increase.
“The governor and I had talked. And I told him, ‘my people don’t support it. And I’ll be honest with you, governor, to tell people with a straight face that this is a tax cut is just wrong?’” Kane said. “I told him my people are a ‘no; in fact, there a strong no.’
“I held my ground, but it was tough,” Kane added. “When you’ve got 35 Republicans willing to sign up with Democrats, that’s what happens. … You now have a gas tax.”
Kane said he also pointed out to Haslam that state Sales Tax on food, while being reduced, is only going from 5 cents a dollar “down to 4 cents.”
“That is 20 percent if you want to brag about it. But my gas taxes are going up 6 cents [per gallon], and that’s going to hit me more than the 1 penny [per dollar] I’m going to save on my groceries,” Kane said. “By the way it’s not your grocery bill, folks, it’s your food bill. It’s just the edible stuff you buy that’s going to get a penny reduction.”
Moreover, “The budget was the worst this year,” Kane said. “I saw some behaviors, post-budget, that I have never seen legislators do.”
However, “I couldn’t do much about the gas tax but I could get $1.4 million for Knox County roads,” Kane said. “And we did.”
“I know so many in this room were discouraged and disappointed with the outcome of some of the votes that we had to take in Nashville. Roger and I were on the opposite side of many of those contentious votes — voting, what we feel, was the right way,” Zachary said.
Zachary, finishing his second session in General Assembly, spoke of increased “manipulation and coercion and the behind-the-scenes pressure this past session” versus the 2016 session. “Everybody I talked to said the exact same thing.
“Very rarely can you find politicians who are going to stand on principle and not move from that position,” Zachary added. Though there are 66 Republicans in the General Assembly House, Zachary said in reference to himself, Kane and state Rep. Jimmy Matlock [R-District 21 who is a Farragut businessman], “I think we’re a minority, but I think we’re a strong minority in Nashville.”
While both representatives fielded questions, Zachary wanted to make one point especially clear with constituents.
“When you come to us with a idea or a thought or you’ve got something that’s important to you, we can respond in a way that they can’t respond in Washington because they don’t have the ability to,” he said. “… Please contact us, please reach out, please engage.”
To contact either rep, go to: www.legislature.state.tn.us/