Shoppers disgusted by sales tax increase

By Julie Fann
S
tar Staff
jfann@starhq.com

  
On most occasions, people talk about taxes using the same tone of voice and body language they might exhibit when mentioning roadkill. Their noses twist and rise in response to a smell so foul it must only be a few feet away.
   Such was the case Friday when Star staff spoke with 20 local shoppers in an informal poll. Looking tired and bewildered, most consumers responded to questions about the sales tax increase as though, seeing the animal cross the road, they quickly turned their steering wheel and hit it anyway.
  
"I don't like it. I'm not up on government stuff, but I noticed it. I know taxes on cigarettes went up from $1.08 to a dollar and thirty-something. I think it's unfair," said Elizabethton resident Deborah Gilday, who believes poor people are being made to suffer from the tax.
   The tax increase on non-food items went into effect last week, raising the price on those items from six to seven percent across the state. With the local option sales tax added to that amount in Carter County, consumers now pay 9.25 percent on everything from clothing to rotisserie chicken, which isn't considered food according to the new law.
   "You couldn't print in the paper what I have to say," said one disgruntled woman as she walked quickly past, sporting shades that pulled back her bleached blonde hair. To most people, the topic was simply embarrassing.
   State lawmakers voted to approve the sales tax increase just before July 4, ending a government shut-down that effected approximately 22,000 state employees. Small business owners tackled a different beast, programming cash registers to distinguish between what constitutes food and what doesn't.
   "It's absolutely ridiculous. Anything would be better besides the silly way this thing is set up. You don't know what's taxed and what's not. I'd rather have a flat income tax," said one woman who wanted to remain anonymous.
   Another customer indicated the tax increase will draw business out of the state, causing residents to travel as far as necessary to buy goods at a cheaper rate. "We're gonna go across the state line and get what we need. Everybody's gonna spend money. They could've done something different," said David Dugger.
   Although she wouldn't shop outside of Tennessee, another shopper said it would take her time to get used to the change (foul smell). "You have to go along with whatever the law is," she said.
   Carter Countian Jeff Bunten referred to the "stinkiness" of the tax increase as coming mainly from the lawmakers themselves. "If they'd stop all their fancy living and do something. That's what we need," he said.
   According to some customers interviewed, although the sales tax isn't the greatest idea, it's much better than an income tax, which they think would be more painfully felt, sort of like hitting a squirrel versus hitting a deer.
   Loretta A. Pearce, from Hampton, was completely repulsed and nonplussed by the new sales tax. Wearing a white shirt, shorts, and lots of calamine lotion due to a bad case of poison ivy, Pearce said that she is disabled and draws just $545 per month.
   "I can't afford it. I don't like it, and I've got poison ivy. I'm miserable," she said.