A little band of liberals threw what they called a rally this morning to protest the proposed state constitutional ban on an income tax in Tennessee. As lawmakers mingled with their lobbyist friends in the halls of Legislative Plaza before the opening of this year's session, the protesters were outside making all the usual logical arguments for junking our antiquated, unfair system of taxation in favor of one that forces the wealthy to pay more.
The Senate voted for the anti-income tax resolution last year, and the House is almost certain to do it this session. Then if the legislature adopts it again by a two-thirds majority in the next General Assembly, it will go on the ballot for voter approval in the 2014 elections.
In 2002, a state income tax won 45 votes in the House. It drew rowdy, horn-honking protests to the Capitol, and politicians in both parties who made the mistake of supporting the tax regretted it later. The state Supreme Court has ruled three times — most recently in 1964 — that the constitution already prohibits an income tax. But the state attorney general issued an opinion in 1999 saying the tax was permissible. Income tax opponents—i.e., nearly everyone in state government—say the constitutional amendment is needed to resolve the issue.