Tennesseans are a legislative floor vote away from getting to say whether they think governments in the state should be prohibited from enacting income taxes on the citizenry.
On a 26-4 vote Thursday morning the state Senate passed a resolution explicitly banning elected officials in Tennessee from taxing payroll or earned personal incomes.
If two-thirds of the members of the state House of Representatives approves the measure later this session, it will go before Tennessee voters in the 2014 general election. As required of constitutional amendments in Tennessee, the measure already passed once before in both chambers of the General Assembly last legislative session.
The “No State Income Tax” amendment is designed to once and for all clear up any ambiguity as to whether or not the Tennessee Legislature has the authority to enact an income tax. While many in the Legislature say they believe that by not specifically authorizing an income tax the Tennessee Constitution in fact already bans one, there’s been disagreement on that point in the past. The amendment “seeks to clarify” the issue, according to the resolution.
“I do think there is a a concern…when we have had five different state attorneys general who have at one point or another during their careers stated that an income tax would be constitutionally permissible under certain circumstances,” said the sponsor of the “No Income Tax” amendment, Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.
One of those who voted against the measure, Nashville Democrat Douglas Henry, said he believes the amendment’s wording is too broad, and that it goes beyond the idea of taxing earnings.
“This is not a proposal to eliminate an income tax only, it also eliminates a payroll tax,” said Henry. “A payroll tax, correctly understood, is not an income tax. It’s a type of excise tax on the employer, not the employee. If you are going to rule out the income tax you should not rule out the payroll tax because we could very well need it sometime.”
The resolutions states that “not having a state income tax has brought jobs to Tennessee, and clarifying this prohibition will help Tennessee become the number one state in the southeast for high quality jobs.”