Press Release from the House Democratic Party Caucus, July 21, 2011:
NASHVILLE –Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and the House Democratic Caucus filed a bill Thursday to allocate any surplus state revenues to cutting sales taxes on food and providing for need-based college scholarships
“When the state is taking in more money than needed, as we’ve seen over the last few months, then this money needs to go back to Tennesseans not into the state’s pocket book,” said Fitzhugh (D-Ripley). “I and my colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus plan to push this bill forward in January when the Legislature returns to Nashville.”
The bill says that “surplus revenue” is defined as any amount of state revenue generated from sales & use taxes beyond budgeted estimates.
Each April, the Commissioner of Finance & Administration, along with the Commissioner of Revenue, would certify the exact amount of surplus revenue the state has collected for the current fiscal year. The Commissioners would then notify the Governor, Lt. Governor & Speaker of the House.
Out of the certified surplus, half of the amount would be placed in a reserve account for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation for the purpose of need-based scholarships. The following fiscal year, the remaining half of surplus revenue would be used to adjust down the sales tax rate on food & food ingredients for human consumption.
“The current sales tax rate on food in Tennessee is 5.5 percent,” Fitzhugh said. “Tennessee has a revenue surplus. This money belongs to the people and should be used to their benefit. This will help put food on the table for working families and stimulate the economy.
“Arkansas has a two percent sales tax on food. Kentucky has none.”
For the academic year 2011-2012, the University of Tennessee raised tuition anywhere from 9.9-15 percent. This is on top of a 9 percent increase from academic year 2010-2011.
For academic year 2011-2012, the Tennessee Board of Regents raised tuition anywhere from 8.8-11 percent. This is on top of a 5-11 percent increase from academic year 2010-2011
“Families are hurting in this recession and it’s getting harder to send our kids to college. As a result more and more students are qualifying for need-based scholarships through the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation; we need to pay for as many scholarships as we can,” Fitzhugh said.
State Representatives who have agreed to co-sponsor the bill with Leader Fitzhugh are Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory), Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington), Rep. Lois Deberry (D-Memphis), Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis), Rep. Gary Moore (D-Joelton), Rep. Janis Sontany (D-Nashville), Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar), Rep. Mary Pruitt (D-Nashville), Rep. Mike McDonald (D-Portland), Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis), Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) and Rep. Tommie Brown (D-Chattanooga).