House Democrats called Thursday for devoting any surplus state tax collections to cutting the sales tax on food and giving scholarships to college students.
“When the state is taking in more money than needed, as we’ve seen over the last few months, then this money needs to go back to Tennesseans, not into the state’s pocket book,” House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley told a news conference.
Fitzhugh said Democrats will introduce legislation in January at the start of the 2012 session. Among the bill’s sponsors are Nashville Reps. Janis Sontany, Mike Stewart, Mike Turner, Gary Moore and Mary Pruitt.
“Tennessee has a revenue surplus,” Fitzhugh said. “This money belongs to the people and should be used to their benefit.”
June marked the 11th consecutive month that state tax collections exceeded the budgeted estimates. June revenues were $1.07 billion — $32 million more than the state budgeted.
The state’s new budget year started July 1. The state Funding Board has estimated revenues will grow by roughly 3 percent during the fiscal year. Under the Democratic bill, any greater increase would go to cutting the 5.5 sales tax on food and for need-based college scholarships.
Democrats dismissed questions from reporters wondering why the legislature would choose to limit its options at a time of potential cuts in spending for health care, schools and other services.
Like most Democratic proposals, this one has nearly no chance of passage in the Republican-dominated legislature and seems mainly tailored for political appeal in the upcoming election year.