Recalling political protests that roiled the legislature a decade ago, senators voted Wednesday to amend the Tennessee constitution to ban the state income tax.
The Senate voted 28-5 for the Republican-backed resolution. If it also passes the House by a majority in this General Assembly and then by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate in the next, it would go on the ballot for voter approval in the 2014 elections.
In 2002, a state income tax won 45 votes in the House and drew rowdy protests to the Capitol. The state Supreme Court has ruled three times — most recently in 1964 — that the constitution already prohibits an income tax. But the state attorney general issued an opinion in 1999 saying the tax was permissible. Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said his resolution is needed to resolve the issue.
“When I think back to that day in which the sounds of the income tax battle were horns honking, rocks being thrown through windows, passions flaring, citizens yelling,” Kelsey told the Senate. “Those are the sounds of an income tax battle. If you would like to leave the door open for another income tax battle, then vote no. if you want to close the door once and for all on the income tax in Tennessee, I urge you to vote yes.”
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said Tennessee can attract new businesses by prohibiting the income tax and shrinking state government.
“When we reduce the size of state government, then there is no need for a state income tax. We will continue to be a good shining star on the hill,” Ketron said. “Other people from California, from Florida and from now Illinois are wanting to come here. The quality of life is good here and we don’t have a state income tax.”
The Senate adopted the resolution last year by a vote of 25-7, but it stalled in a House subcommittee. With Republicans in firm control of the House this year, the resolution is seen as certain to pass. A majority of both the House and Senate signed up as sponsors.