Flood Delays GOP Budget Plan; Doesn’t Alter Anti-Tax Stance

Indefinite disruptions to commercial activity and staggering losses of personal property to the catastrophic flooding over Middle and West Tennessee further bring home the point that inundating the private sector with new taxes now is bad public policy and worse politics, say legislative Republicans.

The GOP budget plan, put on hold for yet another week, will still include deeper cuts to state spending than what’s been proposed by the governor in order to avoid adding to taxpayers’ burdens, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said Thursday.

“I think the recent flooding and the devastation from the storms is additional grounds for us to go easy on Tennesseans and quit taxing them right now,” Norris said.

Senate Republicans say they might be ready to unveil their version of a state budget early next week after ironing out details with their House counterparts.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he is sharing the plan with both Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives to speed up negotiations. “I just kind of want to pass this around, bounce it around, see where everybody is to make sure and get relatively close to begin with,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey hopes the plan, which he said removes all tax increases posed by Gov. Phil Bredesen earlier this year, could be officially approved by both chambers in “a week or so.”

GOP lawmakers have promised to share an alternative to Bredesen’s budget plan for weeks, but have repeatedly missed their own deadlines, saying they need more time or are waiting for key documents from the governor’s office.

A vote Wednesday night in the House in favor of a hospital tax that will help close part of a $660 million hole and dodge cuts to TennCare and helped clean up next year’s budget picture, said Norris.

Lawmakers are still facing at least a $105 million hole in the next budget year that kicks off July 1. Bredesen suggested filling it with additional tax revenue the state can collect if it lifts the sales tax on purchases higher than $3,200.

Republicans nixed that idea and say they’ll propose an alternative plan “without,” in Norris’ words, “all the taxes and fees the governor seeks.”

Andrea Zelinski can be reached at andreazelinski@tnreport.com.