This balanced budget caps two remarkable years for Tennessee. Under the leadership of Republicans, our state has eliminated wasteful government spending, cut taxes so Tennesseans can keep more of their hard-earned money, and rolled back red tape. Due to these actions, jobs are again growing across the state. Unlike the dysfunction voters see in Washington, we stepped forward with a common sense agenda that moves Tennessee forward.
Among some of the comments made by area legislators about the Legislature’s actions, I would like to include a few:
n State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland: “In 2010, voters sent us to Nashville with a specific direction: Cut wasteful spending and get government out of the way of the private sector. After two years, we have achieved remarkable successes. Our budgets are balanced, taxes have been cut and job development numbers are on the rise across Tennessee. There is much more to be done, but it is safe to say this Republican Majority has set the state on the proper course for years to come.”
n State Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City: “I proudly voted for the budget this year. While the stalemate in Washington has yet to produce a spending plan, Tennessee’s leaders came together to craft a balanced budget that cuts spending by 2 percent while still providing millions of dollars in tax relief to all Tennesseans. This fiscally responsible plan will return tax dollars to their rightful owners, improve the economic outlook for Tennessee and pave the way for job creation in our communities.”
Included below are highlights of the recently passed budget:
1. The overall budget is $31.2 billion which is a 2 percent reduction from last year.
2 This budget begins the process of complete repeal of the state’s antiquated death tax.
3. Beginning next year, Tennesseans will realize $14.1 million in savings from the first phase of the tax cut.
4. By 2016, when the death tax will be completely eliminated, it will be a $94.6 million tax cut.
5. This budget does away completely with the state's outdated gift tax.
6. This is a $14.9 million tax cut.
7. Tennessee is currently one of only two states in the entire country with this tax.
8. Currently in Tennessee, any gift over $13,000 is subject to the gift tax.
9. This budget cuts the food tax.
10. By lowering the tax from 5.5 to 5.25 percent, this amounts to a $22 million tax cut for Tennesseans.
Additionally, the FY 2012-13 budget fully funds K-12 education in Tennessee this year by allotting $5.3 billion for schools across the state. Funding for higher education was increased by over $81 million, bringing total funding to $3.8 billion.
Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, stated, “Tennesseans can be very proud of the fiscally responsible budget crafted this year. Unlike Washington, D.C. we balance our budget every year — a feat that does not come easily. In addition to these cuts, we were still able to provide more tax relief for Tennesseans than any year of my tenure, reduce the budget by 2 percent and put $50 million away for a rainy day. Republicans understand that when a surplus of money comes in, we should return it to its rightful owners: the taxpayers.”
Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, offered, “Tennesseans elected us with the understanding that we would budget responsibly and limit the size of government. We trimmed the fat from the budget and made government more efficient while still funding priorities like education and health, keeping our promise to the voters.”
Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, concluded, “Two years ago, this leadership was selected to downsize government, eliminate taxes and pave the way for private sector job creation in Tennessee. With the passage of two balanced budgets, elimination of several taxes and with our unemployment numbers lower than the national average, we have ushered in two years of unprecedented success.”
(Editor’s Note: Rep. Kevin Brooks serves the 24th Legislative District in Cleveland and Bradley County. Brooks and his wife, Kim, are actively involved in their community and local schools with their two children — Zach, who is attending Lee University, and Elizabeth, who attends Cleveland High School.)