“He has achieved success who has worked well, laughed often, and loved much.” ~ Elbert Hubbard
The House and Senate Finance Committees met together and came up with a balanced budget plan that both chambers agreed on and passed out on Tuesday. This $38.5 billion budget recognizes about $45 million in extra revenue from the new internet sales taxes. We also put in the budget about $50 million in tax decreases that give extra revenue back to our citizens.
$22 million of these reduced taxes is due to the elimination of the professional privilege tax on 15 professions. The State of Tennessee currently has more than 100 licensed professions. Since 1992, 22 of these jobs were singled out for the professional privilege tax. It was originally $200 a year, but doubled to $400 in 2002. Regardless of whether these individuals were employed, they had to pay this tax to keep their license active, even if they only volunteered. Now accountants, architects, athlete agents, audiologists, chiropractors, dentists, engineers, landscape architects, optometrists, pharmacists, podiatrists, psychologists, real estate brokers, speech pathologists and veterinarians will no longer be subject to this tax. The only remaining professions that still will be required to pay this tax are: agents, doctors, lawyers, broker-dealers, investment bankers, lobbyists, and osteopathic physicians. The ultimate goal is to completely eliminate this tax on all professions.
We also cut taxes on certain internet installation sales taxes, cut sales tax on agricultural trailers, and sales tax on water used in Ag businesses. Additionally, we also voted this week to cut the 10 cents per box tax on ammunition. This will save our shooters and hunters $500,000 annually across the state.
The Katie Beckett Waiver was presented on the House Floor this week and passed overwhelmingly. This adds over $27 million to TennCare to provide kids with severe disabilities new healthcare funding. This waiver allows Medicaid to cover medical services for children in the home, regardless of the parents’ income, in cases where home-based treatment will cost less than or the same as treatment in a hospital. Tennessee was the last state in the union to fully fund this important waiver.
Both chambers have passed House Bill 945 – which is part of Governor Lee’s legislative agenda this year. This bill establishes the Agriculture Education & Youth Participation Task Force. The goal of the 11-person task force is to encourage and promote agricultural education opportunities so our students are better prepared for successful careers in the agriculture industry.
We also recently passed House Joint Resolution 394. This HJR will create a task force to study and evaluate the overall effectiveness and necessity of state testing practices, curriculum, and other mandated academic policies and procedures that are currently imposed upon our school boards, school directors, principals, teachers, students, and their parents. This will improve overall education outcomes and enhance Tennessee’s future economic standing.
We finished the 1st year’s session of the 111th General Assembly this week and adjourned until next January. I am very proud of the many great things we accomplished in these four months. We have cut many taxes, cut several burdensome regulation, helped many of our citizens who are not able to help themselves, and helped many state employees get much needed salary increases.
While doing all of this, we have not borrowed any money in the last two years and paid off a lot of debt. We now have over a billion dollars in our rainy day fund (savings account). We are one of the lowest tax states, lowest debt per capita states, and business is really booming in our great state because of all these good things we have done in the General Assembly.
Even when I’m not in Nashville, I still check my email frequently, and my assistant, Laura Bond, will be in the office year round. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the legislative office phone number is 615-741-6824. It is an incredible honor to represent the people of District 62 and I truly value this opportunity to serve.