(WMC-TV) – Gas prices could soon be in the hands of Memphis voters.
A Memphis councilman is proposal a tax on gas to help the city's transportation services stay afloat in the middle of a budget crisis.
The referendum jumped its first hurdle Tuesday when it passed through the city council budget committee.
If the gas tax makes it through three more rounds of council voting, Memphians will see the referendum on the November ballot.
City Councilman Edmund Ford, Jr., proposed the gas tax to the budget committee Tuesday. He is asking that voters decide whether a one cent per gallon gas tax be imposed to make up for massive cuts to MATA bus services.
"We have a lot of those routes where people have to go to work and feed their family," said Councilman Ford.
Josue Rodriguez attended the city council meeting to support the gas tax. He said it will help buses be on time and ensure that the lifts for disabled riders actually work.
"Have that transportation for people who might otherwise not be able to get around," said Rodriquez.
But some city council members say that drivers should not be the ones to carry the burden. The gas tax would bring in $3 million to $6 million annually to restore the recent MATA cuts.
"People can barely pay for gas right now. Why not increase those vices like cigarette taxes of a tax on liquor?" Councilwoman Janis Fullilove argued.
Council members debated the pros and cons on Tuesday.
"If they don't want a sales tax, if they don't want a gas tax, and they sure don't want a property tax, we all know what the means," said Councilman Shea Flinn as he referred to city job cuts.
Councilman Ford says the only jobs left to cut are police and fire.
"Which I know nobody wants. But at the end of the day, something's got to give," he said.
In the end, the budget committee voted to put it on the ballot. Several council members were not present.
The proposal must pass three more readings with a final vote on August 7. If it passes, it will go to voters in November.
Action News 5 will be following the journey of this proposal. Stay with WMCTV.COM for the latest.