On the first day of 2012 session of the Tennessee General Assembly, Gov. Bill Haslam rolled out his legislative package.
Despite his insistence in the run-up to the gavel that tax cuts were not in the offing, the governor indeed proposed cutting the estate tax and the sales tax on food.
Haslam said he’d like to cut the food tax from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent this year with an ultimate goal of a flat 5 percent rate.
Yes, 0.2 percent. Two-tenths of one cent.
On a $100 grocery bill, that’s a 20 cent savings.
The governor’s office estimated the state will lose $18 million in revenue in the first year of the cut. Divide that number by the 6 million or so Tennesseans and each and every one of us will see an extra $3 per year thanks to this bold plan.
And that 20 cents on the $100 grocery store trip? It doesn’t go as far as it once did.
At a typical grocery store, 20 cents will get you one envelope of cherry Kool-Aid, two slices of deli cheese or a lonely peel-and-eat shrimp.
That would make an interesting — if tiny — casserole.
If, as Haslam promises, he can roll the food tax back to 5 percent in the next three years, that’s a 50-cent savings per trip. That’s a whole extra can of black-eyed peas (Fergie not included).
Times are tough, of course, and every little bit helps. Tennessee’s in a unique geographical position as few Tennesseans live more than an hour’s drive from another state. Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia have no sales tax on food.
Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia have a lower food tax than Tennessee.
Maybe Haslam thinks cutting the rate will keep more grocery dollars at home, just as he said his reduction of the estate tax will keep folks from going to Florida to die.
Or maybe he wants to encourage creative casserole making.