IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” (HB 534), which includes a 6 cents per gallon gas tax increase and a 10 cents per gallon diesel tax increase phased in over three years, garnered 23 votes from Democrats and 37 establishment Republicans, which was more than sufficient to get it to pass in the Tennessee House of Representatives by a vote of 60 to 37 late Wednesday.
It was a long day for State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss, the leading co-sponsor of the bill, who spent several hours presenting the case for the bill on the floor of the House prior to the final vote.
Only two Democrats, State Rep G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) and State Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), joined the conservative caucus of Republicans, who cast 35 votes against the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”
Rumors swirled throughout the capitol Wednesday that Governor Haslam had made a deal with the Democrats to secure their votes.
Rep. Doss (R-Leoma) was seen conversing on the floor with several Democrats throughout the day, which was not, by itself, particularly unusual.
More significantly, Democratic Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) was seen accompanying administrative staffer Warren Wells to the capitol Tuesday afternoon.
As reported by The Tennessee Star, Leader Fitzhugh confirmed that Governor Haslam was told a $250 million education expenditure would gain Democrat support for the governor’s gas tax increase proposal, a deal the Governor denied in a Wednesday morning telephone interview with WWTN’s Ralph Bristol.
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” includes tax cuts, several Democrats have spoken passionately throughout the committee process and on the House floor Wednesday that not enough was being done for the poor, working poor and elderly and that the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” tax cuts go to the wealthiest of Tennesseans.
State Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) made just such an impassioned plea on the floor of the House but ended up voting yes in favor of the
Improve Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”
Democrats argued that the business tax, otherwise known as the franchise and excise (F&E) tax, and the Hall Income Tax are paid by the wealthy, and the reductions don’t provide any benefits to ordinary citizens.
The reduction in the grocery tax was increased from its original half percent to one percent, but many Democrats felt the cuts didn’t go far enough. The gas and diesel tax increases are estimated to yield the state an additional $384 million per year, while the grocery tax cut will reduce the state’s revenue by $110 million.
Through the committee process Democrats discussed cutting the grocery tax further, eliminating the state portion completely or exempting certain items like baby formula and diapers.
While several Democrats proposed various amendments to those effects, all were eventually withdrawn.
Many Republicans who have claimed to be conservatives revealed themselves to be aligned with the tax increase policies of Gov. Haslam and his many friends on the Democrat side of the aisle.
Last month, State Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) dismissed a challenge to a debate over the gas tax increase bill from challenger Jeremy Hayes because, she said “there’s nothing to debate. I’m opposed to the gas tax.”
By Wednesday afternoon, that opposition had evaporated and Lynn cast a yes vote in favor of the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”
Speaker Beth Harwell, who was for the gas tax before she was against it, ended up voting for its final passage.
Democrats who voted for the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” were Representatives Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Bill Beck (D-Nashville), Karen Camper (D-Memphis), John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis), John DeBerry (D-Memphis), Joanne Favors (D-Chattanooga), Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville), Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory), Harold Love (D-Nashville), Larry Miller (D-Memphis) Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville), Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar), Rick Staples (D-Knoxville), Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova), and Joe Towns, Jr. (D-Memphis).
Establishment Republicans who voted for the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” were Representatives David Alexander, (R-Winchester) Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville), Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), Dale Carr (R-Sevierville), Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville), Barry Doss (R-Leoma), Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), Jimmy Eldridge (R-Jackson), Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), John Forgety (R-Athens), Marc Gravitt (R-East Ridge), Craig Halford (R-Dyer), Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain), Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville), John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton), Dan Howell (R-Georgetown), Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville), Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown), Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads), John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville), Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton), Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville), Art Swann (R-Maryville), Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg), Ron Travis (R-Dayton), Mark White (R-Memphis), Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville).