Wednesday, November 20, 2013

For Culprit in State Budget Woes, Haslam Should Look in Mirror

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 8:30 AM

Gov. Bill Haslam is warning about lack of tax revenue, calling the next state budget the hardest one he’s put together. Cuts are coming with the steepest reductions in medical care for the poor, the sick and the dying.

To hear the governor talk during his budget hearings, he’s a hapless victim of circumstances. Nothing he’s done has brought this trouble on state government, oh no. The state’s oblivious political reporters largely have played along, quoting Haslam ad nauseam without bothering to mention that the governor and his Republican majority have been digging their own hole by cutting taxes.

Republicans have cut the state inheritance tax, gift tax, sales tax on food and the tax on stock and bond dividends and interest. It all adds up to $165 million in lost revenue every year — more than enough to cover the anticipated cuts in Medicaid. Thankfully, Tom Humphrey finally pointed out the GOP tax-cutting spree in his Sunday column:

In family budgeting terms, the reduction in the sales tax on groceries and the tiny cut in the Hall tax might be compared to increasing the kids’ allowance and maybe going overboard on Christmas presents. Repealing the gift tax that most typical family folks never heard tell of — about $15 million a year in lost revenue, about half that of the food tax cut and 10 times the Hall revenue loss — is perhaps the equivalent of sending your rich uncle a really nice birthday present, hoping he’ll remember when he sends gifts.

Irresponsible is the word that springs to mind. So they can go home and tell voters they’ve cut taxes, Republicans are willing to exacerbate the state’s many unmet needs.

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