Giving Our Policy Thanks
BY JUSTIN OWEN
As we reflect on what we are grateful for this Thanksgiving, the Beacon team has much to include in our list. While we may consistently push for deeper reforms at the state level (and there remain plenty of opportunities to do so), we are blessed to live in a pretty good state. This is a good time of year to think about some of the reasons why that is, and to thank not only the policymakers who stood up for the right thing, but especially the Tennesseans who consistently demand that we live in a free and prosperous environment.
Here are our top 5 policies to be thankful for this holiday season:
1) The death tax is gone.
There is perhaps no more sinister tax than one that punishes you for passing away, taking a share of what you have earned and already paid taxes on multiple times. What Tennesseans earn and save should remain theirs to be passed on to their loved ones, not taken by the greedy hands of government. Fortunately, as of January 1 of this year, Tennessee’s death tax is no more. That is something to rejoice over.
2) The Hall Tax is following suit.
This past year, Beacon led the charge to repeal the Hall Income Tax. On the last day of session, legislators voted to phase out the tax over the next six years. Like the death tax, the Hall Tax punished something we should be rewarding: savings. It simply is not the Tennessee Way to raid our seniors’ nest eggs and penalize them for preparing for the future. And with the phase out of the tax, Tennessee becomes just the second state in history to repeal an income tax and can finally claim to be truly income tax free. (Oh, and meanwhile we permanently banned an income tax in our state constitution.)
3) We’ve advanced healthcare freedom in spite of Obamacare.
This month’s election, coupled with its own self-implosion, might spell the end for Obamacare. Hopefully, what comes in its place is an embrace of free enterprise in healthcare, not more government intrusion into our lives. Despite limitations on our abilities to enact meaningful reforms as a state, Tennessee has secured forward-thinking reforms that actually put patients first. We’ve protected the rights of patients to enter into direct agreements with their doctors through direct primary care, repealed or rolled back many of the protectionist certificate of need laws on the books, and ensured that terminally ill patients have the right to access potentially life-saving medicine. These reforms embrace the concept of healthcare freedom, and are a great starting point for the discussion on how to replace Obamacare with something that actually works.
4) The right to earn a living is real.
Too many Tennesseans are struggling to find gainful employment as we crawl out of the Great Recession. Fortunately, lawmakers have identified some of the hurdles standing in their way. Among them, the 111 different laws in our state that require a license to do a certain job. This past year, the General Assembly passed the Right to Earn a Living Act, mandating a legislative review of many of these licensing laws. As a result, Tennesseans may soon be free to wash hair, conduct an auction, and perform other jobs without needing government permission. The Right to Earn a Living Act starts out by saying, “The right of individuals to pursue a chosen business or profession, free from arbitrary or excessive government interference, is a fundamental civil right.” It’s about time we recognized that.
5) Educational choice is on the rise.
We’re not proud of Tennessee’s track record on school choice, but we have plenty to look forward to. Our state will soon launch a choice program for children with special needs, we have strong existing charter school laws, and a new course access program for high school students is on the way. But thousands of children are still stuck in schools that don’t meet their needs. President-Elect Trump has made school choice a top priority, and he reaffirmed that commitment with today’s announcement of ardent choice supporter Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education. And with more states embracing educational freedom for parents, 2017 is the year for Tennessee to do the same.