published Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

State Rep. Gerald McCormick hopes for higher teacher pay, lower taxes in Tennessee

State Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said Monday he's going to work to keep his District 26 seat. And he may not face competition.

McCormick told the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club that, if elected, he would work with other Tennessee Republicans to increase teacher pay, weaken or dismantle the Hall income tax and seek to have wine sold in grocery stores in the state.

The teacher pay effort is part of a push by Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said he wants teacher pay in the state to be the fastest growing in the nation -- but not necessarily the highest.

Republicans also have been working to get rid of the Hall tax. The General Assembly last year was able to raise the income cap, so that fewer residents paid the tax. McCormick said he and others will try to do it again -- but some issues will have to be worked out.

"We're going to go after that again and try to eliminate the Hall income tax. We don't think we need it. But we do need to pay the bills," he told the Pachyderms.

But after the meeting, he said abolishing the tax will be difficult unless revenues increase.

"Ultimately, we'd like to get rid of it all together. We're hopeful we can get the income limit raised. But half of that money goes to the municipalities. For example, Lookout Mountain relies on that money. So we will have to transition in a way that doesn't hurt them," McCormick said.

As for being able to pick up a bottle of wine while you're buying dinner in a grocery store, that also will take some maneuvering, he said.

He's confident the legislation will pass this year, but there will need to be more to follow that would free liquor stores from some Prohibition-era restrictions.

"It will be a complicated issue. It will probably take some secondary legislation afterward to make everyone happy," he said.

According to Hamilton County Election Commission records, McCormick is the only candidate to qualify for the District 26 primary in August.

And Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lee said McCormick likely won't face opposition from his party.

"We have a couple of people who are still exploring state races, but there's nothing anywhere near the local interest [in the local party]," Lee said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrog don@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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