Duckett supports gas tax, is anti-voucher amid GOP ‘sea’

Brad Duckett and his wife, Laura Carrington Duckett, were among a sea of Republicans, roughly 70, during an Americans For Prosperity-sponsored public forum with state Rep. Jason Zachary [R-District 14 including Farragut and Concord] and state Rep. Roger Kane [R-District 89 including Hardin Valley].

Duckett, co-chair of Fifth District Democrats who meet monthly just outside of Farragut with several Town members, responded to negative forum feedback to a 6 cent increase per gallon in the state gas tax among other issues presented.

The forum was held at O’Charley’s in Turkey Creek Tuesday evening, May 23.

“The gas tax is a good one here that I actually support,” Duckett said after the forum, “because I do believe that we really have to spend some money on our road systems.

“And yes, maybe it’s not a complete balance of the knockdown of the food [sales] tax [from 5 cents per dollar to 4 cents], plus what we’re going to gain, a little extra, on the gas tax, but I think it’s something necessary for the state to do,” he added.

Saying the average state driver will pay “about 100 extra bucks a year” for the gas tax increase, Zachary said that increase would generate “roughly $300 million” in annual state revenue, while the food tax reduction “and a few other things” would reduce state revenue $200 million annually.

Further making his point about not needing a gas tax, Zachary said the state “has a $2 billion surplus and $800 million in our Rainy Day Fund.”

But Duckett referred to an audience member pointing out the state “trying to get that rainy day fund back up over $1 billion, which is essentially where they want it to be. That’s really important for the state.

“Yes, we have a surplus now, but things will change,” Duckett added. “And it’s just like at home when I’m ahead on my bills, but I put some money away for those times when things get a little tougher. The state has to think at that level, too.”

However, Duckett said Kane “made a very good point about recurring costs versus single costs” despite Kane and Zachary both voting against the gas tax.

“If at times we’ll do a single cost to fix something in the state, that seems to be a reasonable use of the budget,” Duckett said. “But we also need to be concerned about recurring costs. … We need to plan for that also in the future.

There’s some things that need to be done with that surplus.”

Concerning a discussion about vouchers, where students in need can choose a private school education and have a high percentage of the costs paid with taxpayer funds — with both representative in favor of vouchers — Duckett said, “I am without hesitation against that.”

Saying he has “several people in family who are teachers in Tennessee,” Duckett added, “there are definite problems in our public schools that need to be solved.”

However, citing voucher issues in Indiana, Duckett said, “What I think will happen with that is that money will end up going to people that have never actually attended the public school system.”

Moreover, “There’s also the question: does this go to more than Christian schools? To other religious schools?” Duckett said.

“And that starts to get close on separation of church and state. I’m very concerned about that,” he added. “… If it’s going to an Islamic school or a Jewish school or something like that, is that going to cause headaches?

“It has to be fair.”