Lawmakers abandon income tax plan as protesters storm Capitol
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Lawmakers abandoned plans to ressurect a state income tax Thursday after protesters chanting ”No new taxes” broke windows at the Capitol.
State police locked the statehouse after a crowd of about 200 jammed outside the Senate chambers with some banging on the doors and breaking windows. They accosted lawmakers as they made their way through hallways with police escorts. There were no immediate reports of arrests.
The Senate, ending the longest legislative session in state history, voted 20-9 in favor of a budget which uses $560 million of the state’s tobacco settlement money to balance the books. Later the House approved the spending plan 72-25 and sent it to Gov. Don Sundquist who has said he will veto it.
Both houses adjourned until Aug. 7 should they need to return to session after the expected veto.
Senate and House members had earlier met behind closed doors, with discussions apparently centering on a flat income tax ranging from 2.75 percent to 3.5 percent.
As word of the tax plan filtered out of the Capitol and on to talk radio airwaves, protesters streamed to the statehouse.
Traffic at the Capital came to a standstill as other protesters honked car horns and waved signs reading ”Tax Revolt!” and ”No Income Tax.”
Demonstrator Tom Brown said the people don’t want more taxes, they want responsible government.
”We need to cut spending and be responsible when spending the people’s money,” he said.
”The people are passionate when they say no income tax,” said Steve Gill, a Nashville radio talk show host who helped organize the protests.
A big cheer went up as word spread that the Senate had passed the ”no new revenue budget” and the income tax was dead.
Tennessee is one of nine states without a broad-based income tax, but has one of the highest sales tax rates at 6 percent, with local governments adding as much as 2.75 percent on top of that.
Income tax proponents in the Legislature have tried unsuccessfully for the past three years to pass an income tax, including in special sessions ordered by Sundquist.
Two state troopers were dispatched to the home of Sen. Bob Rochelle, a leading proponent of the income tax, after one talk radio host encouraged demonstrators to drive there and honk their horns.
Associated Press Writer Karin Miller contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Tennessee General Assembly: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/
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