State Senate Passes Resolution Clarifying that Income Tax is Unconstitutional

March 30, 2010 12:25PM

Tennessee Center for Policy Research Statement on Passage of Resolution: The Tennessee State Senate completed a milestone last night when it passed Senate Joint Resolution 763, which clarifies that a state income tax is indeed unconstitutional. While it is the position of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research that an income tax is currently prohibited by the state Constitution, recent attempts to revive the income tax debate make it necessary to confirm that Tennesseans will not face this tax in the future. The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that an income tax cannot be levied on Tennesseans. However, while compelling precedent, nothing prevents the state’s highest court from doing an about-face if confronted with the issue again. This year, legislation has been filed to enact a state income tax, and a 1999 Attorney General’s opinion stated that if properly worded, an income tax could be enacted by the Legislature. TCPR has therefore worked closely with the resolution’s sponsors to advance the constitutional amendment. “We believe that an income tax is already unconstitutional. Apparently, however, several lawmakers and a former attorney general disagree,” said Justin Owen, TCPR director of policy & general counsel. “That being the case, this amendment would render the persistent efforts by some to strip Tennesseans of their hard-earned income dead in the water.” TCPR applauds those that voted in favor of the resolution, and especially thanks the sponsors of the proposal, Senators Brian Kelsey, Mae Beavers, Diane Black, Dewayne Bunch, Tim Burchett, Mike Faulk, Dolores Gresham, Doug Jackson, Jack Johnson, Bill Ketron, Randy McNally, Mark Norris, Steve Southerland, Jim Tracy, and Bo Watson, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. The resolution will now be taken up by the House of Representatives. If it passes, both houses of the General Assembly will need to pass it again in 2011 or 2012. It will then be placed before citizens on the ballot in 2014. Tennessee is one of only nine states that do not tax income derived from labor. According to Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, every single day 20,000 taxpayers flee states with income taxes to settle in non-income tax states like Tennessee. Further, since 1967, states that tax income have seen a 42 percent increase in government spending and a 64 percent decline in personal income growth.


The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee through the ideas of liberty.