McCormick: School system lawsuit is ‘suing taxpayers for a tax increase’

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says a multi-county lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s funding of public education amounts to “suing the state’s taxpayers for a tax increase,” reports the Times-Free Press.

“I think it’s better for everyone to work together on this rather than sue each other,” said the Chattanooga Republican. “I think they’ll end up hurting the kids, suing the state and suing the state’s taxpayers for a tax increase…”

School boards in Hamilton and six nearby counties filed the suit Tuesday…Hamilton County school board member Jonathan Welch defended the lawsuit, saying the school system has a responsibility to articulate its needs. And with so much going unmet, he said it’s up to the Legislature and county governments to figure out how to fund schools.

Welch said the lawsuit is ultimately aimed at helping Tennessee students, teachers and schools — not hurting them.

“As low as the funding is at this point, compared to the needs we have across our county, I don’t know how us advocating for more funding is going to hurt our teachers or students.”

The suit alleges Tennessee has “breached its duty under the Tennessee Constitution to provide a system of free public education for the children of the state.” … Fixing the situation for all systems would cost more than $500 million, according to estimates.

Will Pinkston, a school board member from Metro Nashville which could join the lawsuit, took issue with McCormick’s statement.

“There are ways to increase funding for public schools without raising taxes.

“For starters,” added Pinkston, a one-time top aide to former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, “the administration and the Legislature should consider going back to the practice of closing corporate tax loopholes, which they abandoned a few years ago.”

Pinkston said “ensuring adequate funding should begin with energetically protecting the existing revenue base.”

Other one-time Bredesen aides say Bredesen raised an estimated half billion dollars over the course of his eight-year tenure through annual “technical corrections” bills. They closed off what Bredesen characterized as corporate “loopholes” in state franchise and excise tax collections…. Haslam dropped the practice in his first term. But this year he has recommended a bill that makes a number of business tax changes. If approved, it would raise an additional $17.1 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget that goes into effect July 1.

That would grow to $45.48 million by fiscal year 2018-2019, according to a legislative analysis.