Win This One for the Gipper 

It pains us profoundly to say this, but we agree with Marsha Blackburn. And Tom Delay. And Bill Frist. There. We said it.

It pains us profoundly to say this, but we agree with Marsha Blackburn. And Tom Delay. And Bill Frist. There. We said it.

Often—very often, in fact—we do not share ideology or endorse the approach of these politicians. But—and it's fitting that we pen this editorial as the country mourns the great tax cutter Ronald Reagan—these GOP giants happen to be correct when it comes to state tax equalization, or fairness. Basically, they're pushing federal legislation that would allow Tennesseans to deduct state sales taxes from their federal income taxes.

Because Tennessee is one of only a handful of states—seven, to be exact—without an income tax, we miss out on a significant tax benefit all others enjoy: state income tax deductibility. Fortunately or not, depending on your point of view, we also don't have to pay income taxes. But the outcome proves to be doubly burdensome for many Tennesseans: Not only is there no income tax to deduct, but, because the state relies so much on sales taxes, that form of levy is particularly aggressive—much higher than most states pay. In Metro, we pay a 9.25 percent tax on purchases, which would be considered outlandish in a state with an income tax.

What opponents will say is that tax cutting isn't appropriate when the country has sky-high deficits and the matter of a couple of wars to pay for. But they're not considering that the issue is more about fairness than anything else. States with an income tax shouldn't be favored over states without one. Furthermore, as Reagan would surely attest if he could, tax cutting historically has proved to invigorate the economy, create jobs and put more discretionary dollars in consumers' pockets. Ensuing problems, of course, arise when corresponding spending controls aren't adopted. For that, we have the same Congress and presidential administrations that pass the tax cuts in the first place to thank. But we digress.

The situation here in Tennessee, where taxpayers have no chance for tax deductibility, would be akin to the government granting tax-exempt status only to Presbyterian churches, and not Catholic ones. In other words, it doesn't make any sense that, just because Tennessee chooses a different method of primary taxation, its residents aren't afforded the same federal benefits. What makes the proposed legislation even fairer to all states is that it would let taxpayers choose which tax they'd like to deduct—sales or income.

Beyond all that, Tennessee once enjoyed this privilege back before Congress yanked it from us in 1986. It's time we get it back.

What can't be disputed is that congressional passage of this legislation—included as part of The American Jobs Creation Act—would shoot a fairly enormous hole in the pro-income tax argument in Tennessee, because that movement wouldn't be able to use the lack of tax deductibility here as an argument for its passage. But we think the issue should be considered alone, and not as part of some movement that is as dead at the moment as, well, Ronald Reagan.

Congress, pass sales tax deductibility. Marsha, your housekeeper will thank you.


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