Norris on Taxes

When Republicans gather with lawmakers, the subject of taxes is sure to come up.

It did Tuesday night when Senator Mark Norris was the guest speaker at our Midtown Republican Club.

Norris said he voted for amendment 3 banning a state income tax, and noted among his accomplishments that he “killed the death tax, repealed the gift tax and lowered the tax on food” in Tennessee. He believes that lower taxes do bring business and people to our state. But, he says, “let’s have a conversation.”

Norris said that amendment 3’s language “created a safe harbor for the Hall tax. The day after amendment 3 passed I was informed that the person behind it immediately filed a bill to repeal the Hall tax. But where will we come up with the $260 million to replace it? Why not eliminate the food tax, which brings in about the same amount of money? We haven’t discussed it.”

He cited the road tax as an example of unexpected consequences in taxation. “Money from that has not been addressed since the mid 1980s. Cars travel twice as far now on the same amount of gas which we didn’t foresee and we don’t get the money they projected. Do you care about roads and bridges? At the end of the day, who’s responsible for them?”

Norris then commented that Tennessee has been the No. 1 state for retirement in the past two years, largely due to our income tax free status. “A lot of those older people have amassed personal wealth, but there’s a corollary. You now have a lot of people who are ill and need assisted living. We’ll have to see to them.”

Norris would like to take a look at our franchise and excise taxes. He feels they need to be reformed. “Companies are unfairly penalized if a product goes through Tennessee. We need to address that.”

When asked about the state’s getting into universal Pre-K, Norris said “there is no plan to expand universal Pre-K. We’re waiting on a study from Vanderbilt on it. So far we have not seen any sustained advantages to it. Maybe we should take the $80 million and put it into K-12.”

Norris pointed out that federal money for Pre-K has been talked about in Shelby County and many people ask him why we don’t take it. He sees the need for help for “feral children” here who grow up without parents around. There is money available from the feds, but the state does not want it because “what will we do to replace the money when it is gone?”

Many of our citizens don’t understand how the system works and that “48% of our operating money is federal money.”

Tomorrow: Making things work.

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