Tuesday, December 17, 2013
- by Rep. Eric Watson
State Legislature Faces Several Key Issues
The second half of the 108th General Assembly is set to begin on Jan. 14, with several key issues on tap this year including taxes and jobs. With preliminary work already done on many issues facing the General Assembly, expect lawmakers to get off to a quick start for what is expected to be a short but busy legislative session.
Tax Reduction — The governor’s budget proposal will likely fund the next phase of inheritance tax relief by raising the exemption level to $5 million in 2015. The General Assembly approved legislation in 2012 and 2013 phasing out the “death tax” by 2016, as well as reducing the sales tax on food from 5.5 percent to 5.0. In 2012 lawmakers eliminated Tennessee’s gift tax. I have continually focused on putting money back into the pockets of the citizens. As we go forward with the next phase, I will fight for the people of my district.
In addition, the legislature voted to raise the exemption level to allow more senior citizens to be exempt from the Hall Income tax in 2011 and 2013. Since enactment of the Hall tax in 1929, the use of investment savings has grown as a primary source of retirement income. Expect some continued Hall tax relief efforts to come before the legislature in 2014.
Continued Focus on Job Creation is “Job One” in 2014 — Another area in which Tennessee is looking to be the fastest improving state in the nation is high quality job growth. In addition to preparing students for the 21st century global marketplace, the legislature will continue its efforts to create a business-friendly climate which draws new and better paying jobs to the state.
I am extremely proud of the efforts that my colleagues and I have done over the past several years, with the number of initiatives that we have passed to create and grow jobs including tort reform to provide predictability to business and workers’ compensation reform to create a streamlined system for employees and employers. In addition, the state also has one of the lowest state and local tax burdens in the U.S.
As a result of these and other efforts, Tennessee has gained approximately 140,000 new private sector jobs since January 2011. The state ranks first in the Southeast and 10th in the nation for personal income growth, and first in the Southeast and 5th in the nation for job growth. Expect efforts to continue to focus on fostering entrepreneurship in Tennessee and on the growth of new and expanding businesses.