“Keep Tennessee Income Tax-Free” by Congressman Marsha Blackburn

“Keep Tennessee Income Tax-Free” by Congressman Marsha Blackburn

It was one of those hot July days where we fought the heat and humidity outside the Tennessee State Capitol. The General Assembly was still in session and a fight was brewing inside the Senate Chamber. A Republican-led, Democrat-supported effort to raise taxes and put into place a disastrous state income tax was growing. Little did we know this was going to be the final showdown.

We were told the state was in such an economic crisis that an income tax was the only way out. We were told we’d have to raise taxes, again, to keep the pace with other states. We were told Tennessee would forever lag behind the rest of the nation if we didn’t start collecting another tax on her citizens. After all, with a state income tax, people could deduct if from their federal income tax filing. What a deal!

I’d had enough. The tax was first proposed on February 9, 1999 and I had been fighting it every day since then. The pro-tax crowd knew that only had to push to win one time. We had to win every battle in order to win the war.  I wasn’t going to shrink into my corner and take my orders from the highest elected Republican in the state. I had been elected to serve the 23rd District of the State of Tennessee and I took my orders from them, the people. They didn’t want a state income tax and they recognized how disastrous it would truly be. My constituents wanted a fiscally sound government that answered to them and their dollar. They didn’t want to keep sending money to Nashville to a state government that was growing too large and too quickly. They did not want to prop up a failed healthcare delivery program called TennCare. They wanted accountability and transparency.

Joined by talk radio from around the state, rallying the troops, and calling on a few good friends, I asked for volunteers to come let their voice be known. Days grew to weeks, weeks to months, and over the years they rallied, honked, and took a stand with me and other conservative legislators against a state income tax. On that final showdown day, July 4,2002, we won the day and the Tennessee General Assembly went home with a balanced budget – passed, once again, without a state income tax.

Today Tennessee is ranked as one of the top states in the nation to start and grow a business. Along with an exceptional credit rating, Tennessee has one of the lowest per-person debt burdens nationwide. Today’s General Assembly and our governor are cutting even more taxes for our citizens and leading the way in offering accountable service for the taxpayer dollar.

All of this is possible because a few bold elected officials decided enough was enough. We knew we couldn’t tax our way to prosperity. We knew we would have to make tough choices with the budget and there would be more tough choices to come, but budgets are about priorities and making tough fiscal decisions.

As voters head to the polls on Tuesday, they will make a decision on Amendment 3.  This amendment would make it crystal clear that the state’s constitution does not allow for the imposition of a state income tax.  This will allow our legislature to move forward on a firm and definitive footing, creating an even more certain environment for jobs growth and retention. Our citizens and businesses will never have to worry about being burdened by another bucket of taxes.

-Congressman Marsha Blackburn

October 31st, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News

Why sports enthusiasts should support Amendment 3

Why sports enthusiasts should support Amendment 3

How much money is the contract worth? Will this team compete for a championship? Would my family be happy here? These are some of the common questions that professional athletes ask themselves when they become free agents and have to decide which team they want to sign with. While all of these questions are important, there is one major question that is just as critical, but often unmentioned—“How much money will I take home after taxes?”

While the media often focuses on the contract amount, professional athletes are more concerned about the amount of “take home pay” they will receive. In a vacuum, it can seem like larger contracts mean more money, but that’s often not the case. The best example of this was the now infamous “Decision”, when Lebron James chose to play in Miami over Cleveland in 2010. Both Miami and Cleveland offered James maximum contracts, but because of salary cap rules, Cleveland was actually able to offer James about $4 million dollars more over a five-year period. Although this looks great on paper, James would actually make over a million dollars more in Miami because Florida doesn’t have an income tax, while he would have paid a six percent state income tax in Ohio.

As James’ circumstances illustrate, economic policy matters. Tennessee holds an advantage over 41 other states by not having a state income tax, which will allow us to recruit players with more lucrative financial incentives. The proof is in the pudding. Out of the six NBA teams in a state without an income tax last year, five of them made the playoffs, and both teams that squared off in the NBA finals hailed from income tax-free states. While correlation does not imply causation, historically, teams that play in low or no-income tax states have fared better than teams in states with high income taxes. The best conclusion that I can draw from this is that when all else is equal, money wins out. If we keep Tennessee income tax-free, the Titans, Grizzlies, and Predators will all have a better chance at attracting high quality free agents than they would otherwise.

On Tuesday, November 4th, the citizens of Tennessee can choose to constitutionally protect Tennessee taxpayers from a state income tax in the future by voting YES on Amendment 3. While more competitive sports teams may not be the most imperative motivation behind why I am supporting the amendment, it shows how an income tax would not only have a negative effect on each of our wallets, but also on our favorite teams.

-Mark Cunningham

October 27th, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News

The Three New M’s Of Education Reform: Minorities, Millennials And Moderates

The Three New M’s Of Education Reform: Minorities, Millennials And Moderates

During the campaign season, there are plenty of politicians promising to better education by increasing spending. What they don’t tell taxpayers is that the additional funding will come from their wallets—and it is unlikely to improve achievement.

Given this poor track record, candidates should be talking about the future of education in terms of three new “M’s,” and money is not one of them.

Minority Students

Minorities are not the minority in public schools anymore. This school year, minority students will outnumber white students for the first time. One-third of Hispanic students do not finish high school, and achievement gaps persist between Hispanic and black students and their white peers. Just 7 percent of black students scored at the proficient level in math in the latest national comparison, compared to 33 percent of white students.

Today we can document the devastating results of these gaps. Black men without a high school diploma are more likely to be in prison than to have a job. Approximately 75 percent of Hispanic immigrant adults only have a high school degree or less. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals with a high school degree or less is double the rate for those with at least some college education.

Every child should have the chance at a great education, not just those who can afford a private school or extra tutoring. Lawmakers must focus on creating better options for all children, especially those that the traditional system has not served well.


Adults of the millennial generation are tomorrow’s parents—not to mention taxpayers for at least the next 40 years. The cost of education is going to take on a whole new meaning for this generation, especially because they will also be saddled with paying for the federal debt thanks for the increasing costs of Social Security and Medicare. To make matters worse, these recent college graduates carry an average college loan debt of $30,000.

Finding high-quality, lower-cost education opportunities for their children will be paramount. Flexible alternatives to assigned public schools, like education savings accounts, allow parents to choose from private or online schools, along with personal tutors and individual college classes creating a unique experience for their children without breaking the bank. Also, with this option, public funds are deposited into a dedicated bank account and families use a debit card to make education purchases. Lawmakers in Arizona and Florida have made the accounts available to parents in their states; each is worth approximately 90 percent of what the state typically spends from taxpayer resources on public schools.

A survey of Arizona parents using the accounts finds that 90 percent report being “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their experience so far, even among parents that were “very satisfied” with their previous public school.

Millennials have grown up with more choices about their day-to-day lives. They are used to adapting to new technologies, both at home and in the workplace, so they will expect innovative learning options for their children.

Moderate Voters

Put simply, there are more of them. Earlier this year, a Gallup poll found that 42 percent of Americans “identified as political independents” (the highest in 25 years). Outside of the bluest or reddest states, these independent voters will be the ones who swing elections. Pew Center data find that legal immigrants who traditionally vote Democrat will account for some 25 percent of the electorate in the next 20 to 30 years—more than double the same figure from the 2012 election. (It should be noted that in 2012, 71 percent of Hispanics voted for President Obama.)

While Democrats, calling themselves “pro-education voters,” have historically supported more education spending and other efforts like smaller class sizes, opinions are changing. A recent nationally representative survey found broad support for giving parents options for their children’s education over their assigned schools. Twice as many respondents said they support public charter schools over those who were opposed. Half of respondents favored school vouchers for all children, compared to 39 percent opposed.

And once respondents were told how much it costs to reduce class sizes, support for class-size reduction dropped from 46 percent to 35 percent. Nearly as many respondents favored buying new books and technology.

Money isn’t the “M” that candidates should be focused on. Education’s future lies in thoughtful consideration of these three other M’s.

Jonathan Butcher is education director at the Goldwater Institute and a senior fellow at the Beacon Center.

*This article originally appeared in Forbes.

October 22nd, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News

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