I won’t be sending a portion of the budget surplus back to my district in the form of community grants to government and private organizations - therefore I was asked to write this column.
Yes, this year Tennessee is blessed with another large budget surplus; $1.3 billion dollars in recurring and non-recurring funds. The plan seems to be to spend every penny and raise other taxes even more.
I feel the tremendous surplus, and the fact that our state budget even has the ability to grow at more than twice the rate of the economy, points out an important and obvious fact: Tennessee’s citizens are over taxed.
The Copeland Constitutional Amendment Cap restricts the rate of state budget growth to the estimated rate of growth of the economy. Thus, if the economy is projected to grow at 3%, constitutionally, this year’s budget may only be 3% more than last year’s budget.
The intent is to make sure spending is sustainable, and probably to ensure that the citizens will see excess revenue returned to them.
Due to the large surplus, and the plans to spend it, the budget is expected top the cap by two fold. Which only serves to point out the obvious; we are collecting tax dollars faster than the economy is growing – this should not be.
I feel we should recognize this opportunity to cut the sales tax on food, vote to restore and replenish what we had to take from various departments and local governments in lean times, save more for the future, and keep the state budget from becoming ever more difficult to sustain; thus proving to the taxpayers that we are faithful with their funds.
We should always strive to improve education but how much more would taxpayer dollars be multiplied by ensuring accountability?
We should not forget that the economy is cyclical, and consider the economic indicators before deciding raise the bar on spending to new heights.
Overall, economic growth is slower this year than in any of the last 18 successive quarters; consumer activity is slowing as well. It is true that industrial production is rising but unfortunately prices are increasing. Unemployment is very low and capacity utilization is creeping up; each of these events is often indicative of impending recession.
As I survey our nation and see angry taxpayers literally storming their state capitals as we did just five years ago, I can’t help but wonder as we seek to spend every penny of the surplus if the taxpayers will ever win.
Economic freedom is freedom itself. It’s freedom from stress and pressure, and the misery that sinks in when there’s more month than paycheck.
I can understand why compassionate legislators would want to help organizations in their district; however, we can justify giving other peoples money away all day long.
Personally, I can’t think of anything the residents of my district need more than a reduction in the sales tax. This would truly give money back to each and every taxpayer in a meaningful way.