NASHVILLE – Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle called on Governor Bill Haslam and lawmakers to introduce larger cuts to the food tax and to freeze college tuition rates amidst news that the state government has nearly $225 million in excess funds.
“The Governor has said he believes we should provide the best services at the lowest cost possible,” Kyle said. “It’s time to take out the scissors and give the people of Tennessee new, lower prices on food and education.”
Lawmakers this year repealed the state’s gift and inheritance taxes, saving some of the wealthiest Tennesseans millions in current and future taxes, while approving a .25 percent decrease in the food tax – meaning middle-class Tennesseans will save only 25 cents per $100 of groceries.
Kyle also encouraged Haslam and higher education leaders to hold the line on college tuition rates. The same week the excess revenues were announced, state community colleges and universities proposed tuition increases ranging from 4 to 7 percent.
“We’re asking Tennesseans to pay more for college while saying that we have all this extra money,” Kyle said. “Something doesn’t add up.”
An analysis by Kyle’s office shows that if half of the excess revenues were allocated to higher education, the proposed per-student tuition increases would be more than covered at Tennessee Board of Regents institutions like the University of Memphis. University of Tennessee officials are expected to discuss tuition rates in the coming days.
Kyle said Wednesday that he intends to bring legislation regarding both issues when the 108th General Assembly begins in January 2013.
“We were told for months to ignore the millions of dollars in excess revenue the state was raking in,” Kyle said. “Now that we know just how much is out there, we ought to help everyday Tennesseans with it.”