TAZEWELL, Tennessee — At an Americans For Prosperity Town Hall Monday, Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) told the 30-plus people who turned out to thank him for his no vote on the IMPROVE Act that the tax cuts were a “farce,” if you do the math right.
Sexton proved the point when only one person raised their hand as a payer of the F&E tax, no one raised their hand as a payer of the Hall Income Tax, and that the grocery tax savings of $2.88 were based on a family size of 4 when the actual average family size in Tennessee is 2.3.
When asked, “What would it take for you to be for this bill,” Sexton said he responded that he wanted to vote for roads and infrastructure, but he wouldn’t vote to raise taxes in order to do it.
The results of a poll Sexton commissioned in the three counties he covers revealed that 80 percent of respondents wanted roads improved, but 70 percent said no to a gas tax increase.
Sexton signed on as a co-sponsor of the Hawk amendment, which used the sales tax from new and used vehicles, which Sexton said couldn’t get closer to being a “user fee,” and, without raising taxes, would give more funding to the state, counties and cities.
In one of the committee meetings that heard the IMPROVE Act before going to the full House, Sexton said he brought a book of information, but not wanting to hear from him, he was “shut down,” prompting him to walk out of the meeting.
Sexton demanded of House leadership that the bill be brought back to that committee, or “I’ll have a press conference and call you out.” Sexton said they agreed, which kept him from having a press conference that day. But when the bill didn’t go back to committee, Sexton held the press conference and addressed the issue on the House floor.
The concern Sexton expressed was that by shutting him down, it shut down the 65,000 people he represents. Reaffirming that, “I’m not here for me, but for my people,” Sexton said, “It is the greatest honor I’ve ever had other than speaking the gospel from the pulpit.”
While the IMPROVE Act was the most time-consuming, Sexton said he co-sponsored legislation to make the language of Tennessee law match that of proposed Federal law regarding firearm sound suppressors and a law that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
The intent was to pass a “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortions if a heartbeat was heard, but it did not make it out of committee. Sexton put it in perspective, saying that with a super majority of Republicans in the state House and Senate and a Republican Governor, the heartbeat bill nor constitutional carry could not pass.
Sexton took questions from the crowd, which included Nashville’s proposed sanctuary city bill, which the House strongly opposed and promised action against, and the state’s opioid problem, to which he agreed that it is the biggest problem the state faces and reported that Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) has formed a task force.
Offering some sobering statistics, Sexton said 1,451 Tennesseans died of drug overdose in 2014 and said that the biggest drug dealers are the state and federal government through programs like TennCare. Legislation has been passed that makes the process of obtaining prescriptions more stringent, and the legislature may look to fund drug courts, which have been reported to have good success.
Sexton said that with only two choices, he can’t vote the way everyone wants every time, but committed, “I will stand up. I want the message you have to be heard.”