By Pat Marsh, State Representative
The General Assembly adjourned on April 19 this year. This Session was only 15 weeks in duration, which makes it the shortest session in decades. We finished 6 weeks earlier this year than we did in 2009, which was my first year. This is the way we are supposed to govern – get in, get it done and get out.
In the final week of the legislative session, the House of Representatives passed Tennessee’s annual budget with an 83-14 vote. The bill’s passage was the culmination of months of tireless work crafting a fiscally responsible and balanced budget. The $32.6 billion budget cuts taxes, puts $100 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, improves our educational system and provides an even better environment for businesses to grow and for jobs to flourish.
At the beginning of this legislative session, House leaders promised they would do everything to maintain the state’s strong financial record, balance the budget and return hard-earned tax dollars back to all Tennesseans. Over the last several months, they have followed through on that promise, ensuring every Tennessean across the state will realize tax savings to the tune of $43 million this year, including:
A drop in the state sales tax on groceries from 5.25% to a flat 5.00% rate which will save taxpayers approximately $25 million statewide. This tax reduction builds on efforts during the last legislative session which reduced the sales tax on food from 5.5% to 5.25%. Lawmakers hope to continue this trend in years to come.
Implementation of the second phase to eliminate Tennessee’s death tax, which is set to be completely phased out by 2016. The full repeal of the death tax will represent a $94.6 million tax cut.
A cut in the Hall tax for seniors 65 and older. The Hall tax is imposed on income derived from interest on bonds, notes, and stock dividends. The Hall tax cut approved in the budget raises the income exemption level from $26,200 to $33,000 for single filers and from $37,000 to $59,000 for joint filers. Lawmakers have promised to build on this tax cut in the future.
The state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) – the mechanism for funding public schools – is fully funded in this year’s budget at $4 billion. In addition, the budget provides: Increased funding for information technology upgrades at K-12 schools statewide, increased funding for statewide equipment upgrades at community and technical colleges and over $300 million for capital outlay and maintenance projects at public colleges across the state.
Last Saturday I was able to attend the Normandy Volunteer Fire Department’s annual chili fundraiser. They had a huge crowd, and I am sure they raised lots of needed money for their department. I was also able to attend the Bedford County Wild Turkey Federation banquet. The Blue Ribbon Circle Club was packed to capacity, and everyone was having a great time. They also raised a lot of money and gave some of it for youth scholarships and donations to the Claybuster trap team from Shelbyville.
This will be my last newsletter for the year since the legislative session is over. I want to thank all of you for your kind words of encouragement and your positive responses to my weekly newsletter. I have tried to give you a small look at what really goes on at the legislature and what it is like to be a member of the General Assembly.
I also want to thank the Shelbyville Times Gazette and The Elk Valley Times for allowing me to have a weekly space for my newsletter. I am really honored to be your state representative and it is a pleasure to serve you and our great state. I am doing all I can to help make our state a great place to live, work and raise a family. If you need my help, please email me at rep.pat.marsh@capitol or give me a call at 615-741-6824 or catch me when I come into your area.