Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; April 2, 2012:
Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Those words of wisdom ring particularly true in Tennessee, where you pay taxes, die, and then pay taxes again.
Your Tennessee General Assembly is working to change that by moving forward with two key proposals: phasing out the death tax entirely by 2016 and the complete elimination of the state’s gift tax this year.
Tennessee is one of only 19 states in the country, and two in the Southeast, that impose a death tax. Even worse, we are one of only two states in the entire country, the other being Connecticut, that levy a gift tax. Both tax policies send a terrible message to Tennesseans: Squander what you have today, lest the government confiscate it tomorrow. However, if you work hard your entire life, live frugally, create jobs and seek to pass your legacy on to your family, we will punish you for doing so.
We know that these policies drive people out of Tennessee and into states like Florida that do not penalize people for their hard work. The wealthiest among us do not pay the death tax, because they move. Instead, these taxes mostly affect cash-poor farmers and small-business owners who are faced with breaking up the farm or business to pay their tax bills. Keep in mind these difficult decisions come at the most unpleasant of times: the passing of a loved one.
While some argue it would cost the state money to eliminate these taxes, the reality is that we actually lose money because of them. If we are able to keep retirees and investors in our state, and encourage others to retire here from neighboring states, they become Tennessee taxpayers. They would buy homes and pay property taxes, they would purchase cars and other items on which they would pay a sales tax, and they might even invest in small businesses and pay business taxes — keeping and creating jobs in Tennessee.
House Finance, Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Charles Sargent has made these two bills his top priority. Because of his leadership, both are on the path to passage. Our House Republican Caucus stands firmly behind the proposals, not only because it makes good economic sense, but also because it is the moral thing to do.
Tennessee’s revenues are on the rise. When a surplus comes in, Republicans believe this money should be returned to the taxpayers, and that is exactly what we intend to do this year.
Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, is speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Follow Beth on Twitter @speakerharwell & Like her page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bharwell56