Something so unusual happened at Saturday’s Dutch Treat Luncheon that, for a moment, the audience sat in shock.
A question had been asked of a politician. He discussed the issue and then asked attendees for their opinion.
State Senator Brian Kelsey was the featured guest at the noon meeting at Pancho’s. Serving District 31, which is Germantown and parts of Cordova, the thirtysomething Kelsey started the meeting by outline what happened in the 2013 legislative session.
“One of the most important things, which doesn’t get a lot of attention,” Kelsey said, “is eliminating taxes. We have the most freedom available by having our own money. I’ve been working on an income tax prohibition bill. It was first proposed in 2002 and now passed by a 2/3 vote, so in November 2014, Tennesseans will get to vote against a state income tax.
“We have also eliminated the gift tax, we are winding down the inheritance and food tax and now the state sales tax is 5%. In Shelby County we went from a 9.75 food tax to a 7.75 tax and we want to keep reducing it. We want to eliminate the Hall tax on interest and dividends. We will pare it down by increasing the income level for those exempt. It was $26,200 per individual, now it’s $33,000 per individual with 37-59,000 for couples. I want to flat out eliminate it.”
Kelsey continued. “The most significant bill we passed is on pension reform. A lot of thanks goes to (Tennessee Treasurer) David Lillard from Memphis. It got little attention, but our goal is to not end up like Greece, California or Illinois. We did what every other business did – made it in essence a 401K; as an employee you’ll have an account with your name on it. You will get your money when you retire. This provision covers teachers and state employees.
“With pensions, since they are 30 years down the road, we wanted not to kick it down the road, but to assure that when you retire, you’ll have it with your name on it. We want to keep on track to be a fiscally sound Tennessee.”
As for the annexation – or deannexation of Cordova – Kelsey has been working on the issue. “The city didn’t tell residents that they were going to be annexed. The law has always said it must start January 1. My bill (SB1054) addressed two issues: first, after a court order, a city has to tell all the residents about it within ten days; second, it clarified the law that you are taxed starting January 1. This would mean that those Cordova residents will not owe the 2012 property taxes. It is currently sitting on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.”
On the very important schools issue, “there wasn’t a lot of opposition on the Senate side,” Kelsey remarked about the county bid for their own school system. It has seen more debate in the House.
Kelsey would like to tackle the minimum wage issue. “We need uniform statewide laws on wages, benefits and verification. We can’t allow Shelby County officials to continue to drive jobs away by seeking larger wages for Memphis.”
Next: Kelsey talks about judges and the question that surprised the audience.