The Most Important Thing for Tennesseans
by John Ragan, State Representative, 33rd District
Jobs are, hands down, the most important thing on the minds of Tennesseans as we approach the upcoming election.
We've watched the federal government fail time and time again as they have attempted to meddle in the economy. In the Tennessee General Assembly we understood this would not work. Our approach is a proven path to prosperity.
From 2003 to 2010, we saw unemployment rates go from around 5.3 percent all the way up to 9.5 percent. The politician in the Tennessee House who oversaw these undesirable statistics is running for the Tennessee House for a sixth time.
Tennesseans know where jobs originate. It is written on our Tennessee State Seal: "Agriculture and Commerce." Agriculture and commerce expand and create jobs where and when owners and managers find a favorable business climate. I understand this, and that is why we worked this session to take job-killing laws and taxes off the books so we create a favorable business climate and foster job growth.
The 2012-2013 state budget begins to phase out the "death tax," which will be completely eliminated in 2016. As parents pass the family farm, the small business, and the family home down to their kids, Tennessee will no longer levy the death tax on those individuals. With the elimination of the death tax, families are not taxed a second time on these assets.
Going hand-in-hand with death tax elimination is the complete elimination of the gift tax this year -- a $14.9 million tax cut. Many families were affected by this tax in the same way they were harmed by the death tax: transferring land, for instance, was also subject to the gift tax. Now, the fruits of this labor can transfer to the next generation without paying a hefty tax and protect what are often family treasures.
The General Assembly also reduced the food tax this year. This creates savings of $22 million for all Tennesseans. As food and gas prices continue to increase, the food tax cut will put money back in the pockets of hard working Tennesseans. The goal is to further roll back this tax in the coming years so that all Tennessee families will experience even more savings.
We cut 2 percent from the overall state budget, and balanced it -- something Congress has been unable to do for, arguably, more than a decade. We have put $72.4 million in the state's rainy day fund over the past two years. Setting aside savings for the future is just common sense and will protect our state during lean years from job-crushing tax increases.
The budget saves an additional $200 million for the potential cost of Obamacare and due to future global economic uncertainty. Lawmakers successfully fought off several attempts to spend the extra revenue on projects, stressing the need to be prudent in budgeting for the future.
Legislation was passed to reform lawsuit abuse, which will drive down the cost of healthcare and attract medical professional to Tennessee.
Additionally, those individuals who bring "frivolous" lawsuits now face the prospect of having to pay everybody's legal expenses if a judge rules there is "no basis in fact or law" for their suit. This common sense legislation will make our state far more jobs-friendly.
The last two years were extremely successful, with the real winners being the taxpayers -- and rightfully so. Tennesseans deserve nothing less. They work hard to provide for their families, save their hard-earned money, and give their children hope for the future. State government should not stand in the way, but instead act on their behalf as we make this state the number one destination in the country for jobs and the businesses that create them. I will continue to work with our state leaders to ensure your values and your pocketbook are protected.
We all know that Washington, D.C. is broken, but Tennessee works. We do things differently here; we do things correctly. Balanced budgets, job friendly legislation, and tax cuts for all Tennessee families. When was the last time Washington could say that?