Area representatives to vote no on tax plan

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

Today the state's House Finance Committee will consider the gross receipts tax plan as part of the ongoing struggle to develop a comprehensive tax bill and solve the state's budget problems. Area lawmakers have vowed to continue to send tax bills back to the drawing board if tax increases are not excluded.
   A proposed one cent increase in sales taxes could help the governor cover some of his budget for next year by raising over $700 million. However, the total falls an estimated $300 million short of the total needed to cover the entire budget. "People cannot afford this sales tax when they have to clothe and feed their families," said Rep. Zane Whitson (R-Unicoi).
   Rep. Ralph Cole (R-Elizabethton) stated the House Finance Committee heard testimony recently that the one percent sales tax increase would cause businesses in Tennessee to loose $850 million in revenue. He added that more than 5,000 Tennesseans could loose their jobs as a result of the tax increase.
   No matter how the Senate packages tax bills, if they include an increase in taxes some state representatives will not budge. Sen. Jerry Cooper's proposal of a 10 percent statewide sales tax is another angle being tried by the Senate that members of the House are expected to contest. "It seems that the Tennessee Senate is hell bent on increasing the sales tax to 10 percent but I feel confident that the House of Representatives will not let that happen," Rep. Cole said.
   Rep. Cole believes that the statewide 10 percent tax which eliminates local city and county taxes and sends all the money to the state for disbursement is unfair to Eastern Tennessee. He stated that it negatively affects people in Carter County because families with lower incomes miss the money more than those at higher income levels.
   As for the gross receipts tax that is before the House Finance Committee today, Rep. Cole will vote no. "Extending the gross tax receipt would not be fair to the people of Carter County and I feel that it is time that the wealthy people in middle Tennessee pay their fair share of state taxes," Rep. Cole said. "I will not support any legislation that does not remove the sales taxes from groceries, nonprescription drugs and clothing which are necessities for families."
   Rep. Whitson is also opposed to the two percent gross tax that will affect all goods and services that are not currently taxed. "This proposal is just as bad if not worse than the 10 percent statewide tax," Whitson said.