NASHVILLE — The House gave final approval Monday to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax in Tennessee, which means the measure will go before the voters next year.
The chamber voted 88-8 in favor of the measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin.
Casada said he already believes an income tax is banned under the state constitution, but the amendment will give voters a voice on “clarifying and making it even more clear that the income tax is unconstitutional.”
The vote completes a lengthy process for constitutional amendments, which must pass both chambers in consecutive General Assemblies before they can go before the voters in the same year a governor’s election is held.
The measure would also ban payroll taxes by the state or local governments.
“I think taxing earned income is a terrible public policy,” Casada said. “It runs off business and it’s a disincentive to produce.”
Supporters scrambled to sign up co-sponsors to the resolution as the clerk read the language of the proposed constitutional amendment on its last reading.
Democratic Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville sought to remind members that the last push for a state income tax was led by then-Gov. Don Sundquist, a Republican, more than a decade ago.
“Why would we want to make this a constitutional issue instead of just allowing the elected representatives of the people (to) make this decision year after year?” asked Stewart.
In response to Stewart’s questions about Sundquist, Casada answered that former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, was also a major proponent of the income tax proposals that failed for the last time in 2002.
The income tax proposals led to talk radio-fueled protests at the Capitol and included a brick being thrown through the window of the governor’s office. The measure ultimately failed, and several supporters ultimately decided against running again or were defeated as part of a public backlash.
The fallout from the failed efforts contributed to the election of Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen later that year, but also accelerated Democratic losses in the Legislature that have left the party with little voice in state government.