News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON, March 22 - U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced Senate passage today of an amendment he sponsored to the budget resolution that would allow Congress to pass legislation giving states the right to collect, or not collect, sales taxes that are already owed under state law from online and remote sellers. Alexander said the amendment, which passed by a Senate vote of 75-24 with a majority of Republicans voting in favor, “boils down to two words: states’ rights.”
In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, Senator Alexander asked fellow senators, “Do we have a Tenth Amendment, or the spirit of a Tenth Amendment, or do we not? Do we trust governors and legislatures to make decisions, or do we not? They can decide whether they want to raise or lower taxes, whether they want to collect taxes from some of the people who owe it or from all the people who owe it. That is the issue, these two words: states’ rights …. This is an opportunity for us to express our support for this principle of states’ rights and to give governors and legislatures across the country a chance to treat businesses and taxpayers in the same way – and to stop picking winners and stop picking losers in the marketplace.”
The amendment to the budget resolution was sponsored by Alexander and Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and a bipartisan group of 16 other senators. It had the strong support of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and state legislative leaders.
The Marketplace Fairness Act was first introduced in 2011 by Enzi, Durbin, Alexander and Corker, among others, to give states the option to collect sales taxes already owed under state law from out-of-state businesses. The bill was reintroduced this year on February 14, 2013. Most Americans are surprised to learn that when they buy something online or from an out-of-state retailer, they still owe the same state sales tax that they would have paid if they had made the purchase in their local store. The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow states to collect states sales taxes on remote sales the same way they do purchases in local stores.
Alexander continued: “We’re deciding whether we in the United States Congress are going to make state governments play ‘Mother, May I?’ by coming and pleading with us to allow the state to decide what to do about its own taxes. The state of Tennessee would like to reduce its tax rates. It would like to avoid a state income tax. It doesn’t like the idea of treating one taxpayer one way and another taxpayer another way, and one business one way, and another business another way.
“When I was the governor of Tennessee, nothing made me more unhappy than to look up at Washington and see people of my own political party come up here and think since they had taken an airplane to Washington, they had gotten smarter than I was, suddenly, just by an hour plane ride, and they were going to tell me, as governor, what to do.
“We have an honor roll of conservative governors who’ve said they don’t think states ought to be playing ‘Mother, May I?’ They’re saying, ‘Give us states the power to make these decisions for ourselves - that’s consistent with the Tenth Amendment, that’s consistent with our constitutional framework. You, Congress, can make this decision. Give us the power and we’ll lower our tax rates.’ That’s what [Tennessee] wants to do. States might use the money another way. They might use it to pay outstanding teachers more, to lower the tuition rate. Whatever the case, states have the right to be right and states have the right to be wrong ….
“Here is the honor roll of conservatives who are asking Congress to reaffirm our commitment to and understanding of our constitutional system, which allows states to make this decision: Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia; Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania; Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee; Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey; Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan; Governor Butch Otter of Idaho; Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana; former Governor Jeb Bush; former Governor Haley Barbour; and the writings of the late William F. Buckley, Jr.; and so on.”