published Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Tennessee Senate votes to place income tax ban on ballot

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, right, and fellow Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro listen to proceedings during a Senate floor session in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. The chamber earlier voted to place a proposed constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax before the voters in next year's general election. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, right, and fellow Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro listen to proceedings during a Senate floor session in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. The chamber earlier voted to place a proposed constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax before the voters in next year's general election. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Senate voted today to place a proposed constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax before Tennessee voters.

The chamber approved the measure on a 26-4 vote, and if the House concurs, it would be placed on the ballot in next year’s general election.

The political fallout from failed efforts to impose a state income tax more than a decade ago has already made renewed efforts exceedingly unlikely. But Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown said his proposal is aimed at eliminating any uncertainty about the measure in the future.

Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville, one of the four Democrats to vote against the measure, likened himself to “the skunk at the garden party” for raising concerns that the proposal would also eliminate the possibility of payroll taxes on employers.

“If you’re going to rule out an income tax, you should not rule out the payroll tax, because we may very well need it some time,” Henry said.

He stressed that he has long opposed the income tax, including during his time as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, when three governors unsuccessfully sought his support for changing Tennessee’s sales tax-based system.

But the state’s fiscal situation could become difficult with the payroll tax option off the table, he said.

Kelsey is also the sponsor of a constitutional amendment to give the lawmakers the power to confirm or deny the governor’s appointments to the state Supreme Court.

A scheduled vote was put off for a week on the request of Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis.

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