Crowe says he has no regrets about not voting for income tax

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Senator Rusty Crowe can play the blues, but he doesn't want to sing them.
   The upstate senator met with residents and supporters in the courtyard of the Pine Ridge Care Center Monday evening, one week after ending a grueling session of the General Assembly.
   Crowe said he didn't feel like he had painted himself into a corner politically by not voting for a tax on personal income with the Republican primary only weeks away.
   "I haven't signed any pledges," said Crowe. "I simply responded to the people who elected me who said they didn't want an income tax."
   He stated a direct mail survey he had conducted found 85 percent of respondents in the 3rd District stating that they did not want an income tax.
   His Republican primary opponent, Kevin Cole, has actively criticized Crowe's decisions pertaining to the state budget and questioned the motives behind his past party switch from Democrat to Republican.
   Merchants have already begun expressing confusion about what constitutes a "non-food" item and how to program cash registers to accommodate that discrepancy.
   Crowe said the state budget passed by the Assembly fully funded K-12 education and placed $100 million back in the state's "Rainy Day" fund.
   The budget plan, known as the "Cooper plan," passed the General Assembly increasing the sales tax on non-food items from six to seven percent. The sales tax increase will go into effect on July 15.
   With the local option sales tax in Carter County and Elizabethton added to that amount, the tax goes up to 9.25 percent in both municipalities.
   Crowe and fellow upstate senators Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and Tommy Haun, R-Greeneville, voted for the bill.
   "We had three choices," said Crowe. "We could vote for an income tax and if they didn't have the votes they were going to maintain the shutdown until they passed an income tax or a sales tax."
   He also felt the announcement of Sen. Robert Rochelle, D-Lebanon, not to seek re-election was an indicator that the pro-income tax lobby could be a sign that some pro-income tax supporters were sweating the upcoming state primaries and election.
   "I think many of those people are going to resign and not be re-elected," said Crowe. "You don't force things through the process."
   Rochelle announced earlier this week that he would end his campaign for re-election to the Senate.
   The winner of the Cole-Crowe primary race will face Democrat Richard Dale Gabriel of Gray and independent candidate Charlie D. Mattioli of Elizabethton.
   "I started not to run this time," Crowe told the crowd, "but I didn't want to leave things in a mess. So I'm going to put my neck in a ringer again."