Rep. Watson: Capital Hill Review

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.

What Is Thanksgiving Day For?

As I thought about tomorrow, I asked myself this question: "What is Thanksgiving for?"  For some, it is simply a break from work. For others, it is a time to gather with friends or family or both, to enjoy one another's company and our favorite foods, and to give thanks for the many blessings we've enjoyed.  Thanksgiving encompasses all of those things, but for me ... (click for more)

This Thanksgiving Think Of Others

I used to keep a framed picture in my classroom: “Your Life is God's gift to you. What you do with your Life is your gift to God.” I wish every child could hear that repeated every day. And what teachers do with their gift benefits so many children on a daily basis. Teachers are often on the front line of the poverty battle. It is important that children know from where their gifts ... (click for more)

Residents Concerned Over 7-Story Building On The Southside

Downtown Chattanooga residents expressed their concerns with the proposed seven-story apartment building on Cowart Street on the Southside at Tuesday night’s City Council Meeting. The apartment building, originally zoned at four stories before Belle Investment petitioned for seven, has not been adequately publicized, residents claimed.   Architect and planning professional ... (click for more)

Commissioner Graham Chides Chairman Bankston For Shredding Arts Cigarette Tax Letter; Says Sunshine Law Violated

County Commissioner Joe Graham on Wednesday chided Chairman Chester Bankston for shredding a letter related to the proposed cigarette tax to aid the arts. "Have you shredded any other county legal documents?" he demanded. Chairman Bankston replied, "No, I have not done that." He said the letter did not get the necessary six signatures to forward to the Legislature. ... (click for more)

UTC Rallies to Top Arkansas State, 55-54

Just call ‘em the comeback kids, and kids – i.e. young ladies – who are plenty thankful for a win on Thanksgiving Eve. For the second time in three games, the UTC Mocs (4-2) rallied for a win as they handed previously unbeaten Arkansas State (3-1), 55-54, its first loss of the young season in McKenzie Arena Wednesday night before 1,189 fans. Down by as many as 17 (44-27) ... (click for more)

Jones Thankful For Resiliency, Resolve Of 2015 Vols

The day before families gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving, Tennessee football coach   spoke about what he and the Vols are thankful for. "It's a time to reflect and we have so much to be thankful and grateful for in really the resiliency and resolve that this football team has shown, the growing of this football team and the growing of this football program," ... (click for more)