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Citizens Defeat Tennessee Income Tax Measure

In a remarkable display of GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE, thousands of angry Tennesseans stormed the state capitol to defeat a budget proposal that would have established a state income tax.

For the third consecutive year, protesters claimed victory against Republican Governor Don Sundquist and other state lawmakers who contend that an income tax is needed to get Tennessee out of "financial peril." Opponents to the added tax say that it is responsible government and less spending that is needed, not new taxes. When it was all said and done, it was the opposition’s message that carried the day, as the legislature passed a budget with no new revenue and abandoned its plans for a state income tax.

When budget negotiations began several months ago and news spread that lawmakers again were working to pass a state income tax, two Nashville radio stations — as they have done in previous years — joined forces to get the word out and rally opposition at the state capitol. Steve Gill, one of the stations’ early morning talk show hosts, set up a broadcast tent near the capitol and urged his listeners to drive by and honk their horns in opposition to any new taxes.

The protests several times forced state lawmakers back to the drawing board on the budget, as numerous plans to increase taxes were defeated. The stalemate between income tax proponents and opponents led lawmakers to approve a temporary budget on June 29 to keep the government from shutting down on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

As word got out before the final budget vote that Governor Sundquist and some senators were making a last ditch effort to garner support for a state income tax, thousands of taxpayers, some traveling several hours to join the protest, gathered in the halls and around the state capitol carrying signs and honking their horns in objection to the measure. Traffic encircling the capitol was at a standstill, as horns blared and protesters chanted "TAX REVOLT" and "NO INCOME TAX."

Just minutes before the final vote, state police locked the doors to the Capitol as legislators claimed the crowd was getting out-of-control. According to news reports, the protesters banged on locked doors, accosting lawmakers and even broke a window in the governor’s office. Some lawmakers said the crowd was chanting so loudly that lawmakers could barely conduct business. These reports were denied by many who attended the protest and described the scene as peaceful.

As the news of the Senate vote in favor of the "no new revenue" budget passed by the House a few days prior, and the defeat of the income tax filtered out of legislative chambers, the crowd of protesters roared in victory.

The final budget uses $560 million of the state’s tobacco settlement money and cuts $339 million from Governor Sundquist’s proposed $19.9 billion budget. In addition, it requires state agencies to find an additional $100 million or more in savings.

Governor Sundquist, who is the prime champion of a state income tax after promising during his 1998 campaign to prevent such a tax from passing while he was in office, has said the budget is a "likely candidate for a veto." Lawmakers will return on August 7 if the governor follows through on his veto threat. A simple majority in both houses, whose members face reelection this year, could override the governor’s veto.


Amidst a Sea of Protesters, Tennessee Lawmakers Override Budget Veto

On August 7, Tennessee lawmakers assembled at the state capitol to override Governor Don Sundquist’s veto of the state budget passed just weeks earlier, following through with their promise to abandon plans for a state income tax.

More than 1,000 protesters once again rallied at the State House to express their support for the budget veto override.

The House voted first (66-33) followed by the Senate (18-12). This is the second year in a row that the legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a budget that did not call for the establishment of a state income tax.

On another note, those sources that reported the crowd of protesters were violent and rowdy when they rallied to defeat income tax measures last month, failed to get their story straight. Apparently, Sargent Harold Gooding, a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper, was videotaped grabbing a protester after he fell or was pushed to the floor and dragging him by the legs across the ground. After a four-week investigation, Gooding was suspended for two weeks without pay, will be indefinately transferred from his assignment at the State House, and will be forced to attend an anger-management course


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