House Gives Final OK to Anti-Income Tax Constitutional Amendment

The House gave final approval Monday to a proposed amendment to the Tennessee constitution that would prohibit a state income tax if approved by voters in a statewide referendum next year.
The House vote was 88-8 after brief debate with two Democrats, Reps. Mike Stewart of Nashville and Larry Miller of Memphis, speaking against the amendment and House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada defending it. The measure (SJR1) was approved 27-4 by the Senate on Feb. 14.
Stewart recalled that former Republican Gov. Don Sunquist had championed a state income tax in 2002 because he “felt that our business and sales tax had essentially reached a peak.” While unpopular now, he said the idea remains “within the solar system of policies” that could be considered in the future as well.
“I think by eliminating this level of flexibility we going down the wrong road… (toward) inflexibility in our tax system,” said Stewart.
Miller said the state constitution is “a sacred document” that “you don’t play politics with.” If voters approve the ban on an income tax, he said, ” It could take another 50 years before we realize the mistake we made.”
“The income tax – that’s the mistake,” replied Casada, contending that a state income tax is a “terrible policy” that deserves special treatment via a constitutional prohibition.
Voters will now have at least three constitutional amendments to consider on the November, 2014, ballot. Legislators have previously approved a proposed amendment setting up a new system for appointing the state’s top judges and another pushed by anti-abortion activists.

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