Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday he opposes two tax increases proposed by Gov. Phil Bredesen, and he’s looking for ways to cut state spending to make up for the loss of revenue in the next state budget.
Ramsey said he’s against Bredesen’s proposed tax on cable TV bills and on hotels for the complimentary breakfasts they offer guests.
“Those are almost silly,” Ramsey told reporters. “I want to be able to go home, and I believe this from the bottom of my heart, and be able to say we didn’t raise your taxes. I don’t want to say go home and say we didn’t raise your taxes except on your cable bill. For the amount of money that it brings in, it’s not worth it, first of all. Second of all, it’s the wrong thing to do.”
Ramsey, who is running for governor, said he has asked the state’s constitutional officers to find ways to cut spending to replace the taxes. The cable TV tax would raise $21 million, money that Bredesen wants to use to save the jobs of prosecutors, public defenders, forest rangers and others. The hotel tax would bring in $2 million.
Ramsey said he wouldn't lay off those state workers but would find other ways to save money.
“I think that was good politics on the part of the governor to actually tie some cuts to the tax increases,” Ramsey said. “But the fiscal reality is that does not have to be the case. You can use any cuts you want to replace that.”
Ramsey said he favors a proposal by the state’s hospitals to tax themselves to draw matching federal Medicaid dollars to offset proposed cuts in TennCare in the coming year.
“I think we can see the need for that," he said. "I am reluctant to comment until we actually have a bill in front of us. But I understand that if these cuts go into effect, that the governor has proposed by the way, that it would be devastating to hospitals, and I understand that.”