Having completed that task, the House Majority Caucus has now turned its attention to job creation — the No. 1 priority for Tennesseans. A number of proposals to help spur economic development await action in the General Assembly. Additionally, the House Majority will work closely with the administration to pass a number of proposals to improve both the state’s economic outlook and education.
Some highlights of the governor’s legislative package include changes to the Economic and Community Development FastTrack incentive program. This is a tool for ECD to attract and expand jobs here in Tennessee. The reforms highlighted by the administration allow for the budgets to allocate more for grants and giving the department more flexibility in utilizing the grants.
The governor also submitted a proposal that I proposed three years ago to cut taxes in Tennessee. Under this proposal, the sales tax on groceries would be reduced so the tax burden on all Tennesseans will be reduced in a time of economic hardship. He also proposed cutting the death tax, a punitive tax that hurts Tennessee family businesses and farms. Both of these items have long been priorities for myself and many others.
As expected, legislators quickly switched gears last week from redistricting to focusing on job creation and the economy.
A number of conservative members have talked about the certainty job creators must have in Tennessee in a number of different areas including legal reform, regulatory mandates and, perhaps most important, tax law. While Tennessee is currently one of only a handful of states not to impose a punitive income tax on its citizens, several attempts have been made to change this fact.
Last Thursday, we took a strong stand on behalf of taxpayers to ensure Tennesseans will never have to face a tax on the money they work so hard to earn. Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 221, to permanently place language in the Tennessee Constitution banning the implementation of an income tax. The amendment now must pass the next General Assembly by a two-thirds vote before being placed on the 2014 general election ballot.
America was built on the notion of self-reliance. Our tax code should reflect that principle and provide greater flexibility for taxpayers. Countless studies have shown income taxes are hurtful to state economies and harmful to the financial well-being of taxpayers while a sales tax allows taxpayers to be in charge of their resources. With this vote, we are fulfilling our promise to Tennesseans that we will protect them from wasteful spending and government actions that hurt job creation in the private sector.
In passing SJR 221, the Majority painted a strong contrast between how government operates in Tennessee and the dysfunctional ways of the federal government in Washington.
SJR 221 removes all doubt about whether Tennesseans should have an onerous income tax levied against them. Clearly, we hear what the voters are telling us. I would hope Washington would do the same and get the federal government out of the way of America’s job creators.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that Commissioner Bill Hagerty will lead ECD’s trade mission to China and South Korea April 15-21; it will focus on Tennessee’s medical device manufacturers and other health care companies.
Applications are available at http://www.tn.gov/ecd/tntrade/trademission.html, along with a video explaining the trade mission. The deadline for companies to apply is Feb. 1. The trade mission is part of the recently announced TNTrade, a new initiative designed to help boost exports by Tennessee’s small- and medium-sized businesses.
The winter test dates for the ACT and SAT are fast approaching. While some students may be nervous about how the upcoming exams could affect their college options, the Tennessee Electronic Library has the tools they need to succeed. TEL is an online library funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. TEL is administered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.
“Success in education and in life begins with proper preparation which is key for young students to understand,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “The free resources available through TEL show students what to expect and how to prepare for the academic challenges ahead.”
The next SAT test will be offered Jan. 29, while the next ACT test will be Feb. 11. The test prep resources in TEL are from the Learning Express Library, an online collection of study guides, practice tests and math and reading improvement courses. The courses are timed and structured to simulate actual test-taking experiences with instant grading results. Test takers receive personalized recommendations for free e-books and online courses to aid in their future study needs.
Learning Express Library has more than 1,000 online interactive practice exams and course series, plus more than 200 e-books.
“The chance to practice such an important exam is very helpful,” TEL Coordinator Wendy Cornelisen said. “It gives students an idea of what their test day will be like, and hopefully lessen any test anxiety they might have.”