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Tennesseans Protest Income Tax Plan

May 15, 2002

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Hundreds of demonstrators honked horns and waved signs at the Tennessee Capitol Wednesday to protest plans to create a state income tax.

Noisy motorists circled Legislative Plaza, spurred by a local radio talk-show host who was broadcasting live from outside the complex.

Protester Les Laughlin added to the cacophony by beating on a large drum. ``The state needs to control its spending, not raise revenue,″ Laughlin said.

The protesters show up whenever talk of an income tax surfaces in the Legislature. Neither the full House or Senate has yet voted on taxing incomes, but House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh was considering Wednesday whether to call for a vote on his own plan and reportedly was close to having enough votes to pass it.

Naifeh’s plan would create a 4.5 percent flat income tax while stripping the 6 percent sales tax from groceries, many clothing items and nonprescription drugs.

A different plan to extend the sales tax to services and currently exempted items also was ready for House consideration after it passed two committees Tuesday, but it wasn’t clear if its sponsors intended to bring it up Wednesday.

Tennessee is one of nine states without an income tax.

Naifeh, Gov. Don Sundquist and Senate Speaker Pro Tem Robert Rochelle have been pushing for tax reform for several years. They say the sales tax overburdens the poor and does not bring in enough money to cover education and other necessary services.

Income tax opponents say the government should operate within its means.

Last year, an anti-tax rally escalated after troopers locked demonstrators out of the Capitol. Three windows were broken, and protesters who got inside shouted and pounded on chamber doors so loudly that lawmakers could barely hear the call for votes.

Capitol security was better prepared for the protests this year, in part because public access was restricted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


On the Net:

Tennessee General Assembly: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us

Tennessee Tax Revolt: http://www.tntaxrevolt.org

Tennesseans for Fair Taxation: http://www.yourtax.org/tft

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