Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), chairman of the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee, presided over a voice vote on Tuesday that advanced the controversial
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” to the Calendar and Rules Committee, where it awaits scheduling for a vote on the floor of the full House.
Rep. Barry Doss (R-Leoma), as sponsor of the bill, once again presented the features of the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”
Doss unexpectedly made a point of saying that the renaming of the bill last week to include The Tax Cut Act of 2017 was something that was not important to him, but it was to its sponsor, Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga).
Chairman Sargent allowed a leisurely-paced question and answer period from Committee members to Rep. Doss, which came primarily from Democrat members of the Committee.
Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) pointed out that while he wished it wasn’t included in the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017”, he wouldn’t vote for a bill that didn’t include the change from the franchise and excise tax to the single sales factor due to the loss of Polaris from his district to the state of Alabama.
Rep. David Hawk (R- Greeneville) presented a much anticipated “alternative plan” he said he had been “working on with the Speaker [Beth Harwell (R-Nashville)]” that “had been discussed for several days.” The plan substitutes a portion of the sales tax for the proposed gas tax increase. Hawk emphasized the alternative plan does not use surplus dollars but instead relies on the sales tax, a historically stable funding mechanism.
State Rep Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) said the Democratic Caucuse which he leads wanted to “get a little clearer” on the Hawk amendment and if there were going to be additional options.
Hawk said his proposal was a “solution to a complex issue made more complex than it needs to be.”
Rep. McCormick responded by saying they just got the amendment yesterday and from the notes he made, began listing the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” tax cuts that would be eliminated with Hawk’s proposal and then moved to table Hawk’s amendment.
Coming back with firm conviction, Hawk said that “We’ve got an issue that’s fracturing many of us down here, and we’re hanging tax cuts on this bill like it’s a Christmas tree.” He continued that more tax cuts could be added to get a couple more votes, but questioned, “Does that create good policy?”
“As we’re poking holes in the plan that Speaker Harwell and myself have crafted, we could poke holes in the plan that’s before us just as easily now.”
“As I walked into the hallway after we recessed, there’s several printed pages,” holding up a typewritten document Hawk continued, “and it takes a while to print pages and there’s several printed pages telling us what to say to be opposed to this legislation.” Holding up another sheet, “One is in four-color print. And that’s fine,” said Hawk.
“This issue is far from being done. We will have a conversation on the floor about how we need to better fund transportation and what is the most responsible way to do that as we serve our constituents. That’s a promise. We will have a debate on the floor and we will bring an amendment to the floor.”
Hawk withdrew his amendment after negotiating to have McCormick withdraw his motion to table.
After a call for the question and no objections, Chairman Sargent called for the vote. He gaveled that the ayes have it and told members who wanted their no vote recorded to see the clerk.
According to the Tennessee General Assembly website information for HB 0534, five of the twenty-three members of the committee requested to be recorded as voting no: David Byrd (R-Waynesboro), John Crawford (R-Kingsport), David Hawk (R-Greenville), Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville).