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Revenue remarks stir tax debate
Dec 17, 2005 12:00 am
December 16, 2005
A question-and-answer session after a speech by one of Gov. Phil Bredesen's cabinet members at a Wilson County Rotary club created a stir among conservatives this week who say the governor's emissary was touting a state income tax.
"There is projection that in a three- to four-year time frame the sales tax is not going to experience as much growth as it is now," Department of Revenue Commissioner Loren L. Chumley told the Mt. Juliet Noon Rotary Club on Monday. "But what they (some economists) are predicting is a greater growth in personal income tax, so what will end up happening at that point in time is that states that rely on personal income tax are going to find themselves in probably a stronger fiscal position than states that do not."
Some conservatives in Tennessee maintain the commissioner's speech was simply coded pro-income tax talk, something Bredesen's administration strongly denied Thursday.
"The revenue commissioner was talking from the talking points of the pro-income tax crowd," conservative radio show host Steve Gill said Thursday. "If she is not talking for the administration, then why is she still working for the administration?"
"The governor has stated clearly he is opposed to a state income tax," Bredesen spokesperson Lydia Lenker said Thursday. "He has managed state government for three years with a balanced budget while living within our means. Nothing has changed. He is against it."
Chumley said as much in her address.
"We are committed to continuing on the path that we've got of trying to shore up the compliance initiatives, shore up the loopholes that we've got out there," Chumley said. "The governor's not going to propose a state income tax."
However, Gill spent a large portion of his Thursday morning show talking about Chumley's remarks, printed in a story by The Lebanon Democrat on Tuesday.
Her remarks also caught the attentions of other Tennessee Republicans, who said the income tax is still "on the table" for Bredesen, a Democrat.
"It sounds like she was touting the benefits of a state income tax," Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis said Thursday. "It appears it is still on the table. … Either she was off the reservation or she gave a speech she was suppose to give after November '06."
Davis' comments were a reference to Bredesen's re-election campaign next year. Republicans have had a difficult time recruiting a candidate to oppose Bredesen. One potential GOP candidate mentioned has been Gill.
Other Middle Tennessee conservatives seemed less concerned by Chumley's remarks. Wilson County State Sen. Mae Beavers said it would be Bredesen and not Chumley who would have the power to launch an income tax movement anew in state government.
"It did sound like a lot of arguments used during the income tax debate," Beavers said. " … I don't think she (Chumley) would be making the decision on the income tax."
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at email@example.com.