Monday, December 2, 2013

Haslam, Do You Approve of the Budget-Busting Tax Breaks You Gave Yourself? "You Bet"

After three years of budget-busting tax breaks for Tennessee's richest citizens and giveaways for well-connected corporations -- surprise, surprise -- Tennessee is facing shortfalls.

That means it will be harder to pay essential services, like fixing our crumbling roads and bridges, improving our schools so our kids can compete for future jobs, and investing in public safety so, maybe, Tennessee wouldn't have to be the nationwide leader in gun violence.  

Given our new budget woes, Gov. Bill Haslam was asked recently if he thought all these tax breaks for the rich were still a good idea.

Haslam's answer: "You bet I do."

Here's some insight into his knee-jerk reaction. Those are tax cuts for himself. 

With both the inheritance and gift tax repealed, the greater Haslam family alone will likely get a tax break of about $300 million. (It's probably not less, but it could be more.)

Bill Haslam, do you want that $300 million tax break for your family? You bet he does. 

Haslam's repeal of gift and inheritance taxes on the rich erased any modicum of tax fairness left in our system.   

Given Tennessee's current tax structure, wealthy families, like the governor's, pay a much lower percentage of their income in state taxes (2 percent) than families who are dirt poor or even upper middle class. 

Now with budget shortfalls on health care, infrastructure and schools, millionaires and billionaires, who already pay a smaller share of their income on state taxes than fast food workers, secretaries, teachers, plumbers, nurses, police officers, and just about everyone, will pay even less. 

Nobody who works for a living to collect a paycheck should have to pay more of their wages than millionaires and billionaires who feast on Wall Street unearned income. 

We can't build a state where every family is safe and has a chance to succeed if we're asking working people to do more than the wealthy.

Because what happens next? Is Haslam going to ask for tax increases to cover much-needed bridge and road repairs, classroom improvements, or new public safety measures? 

Not likely. 

That means more cuts to services that are essential for attracting new jobs and maintaining a safe and secure way of life.

Mr. Haslam, you may have cut your own taxes, but you cannot cut your way to job growth and shared prosperity for the rest of our families.