Bredesen tax, fee increases get chilly reception from GOP

Bredesen tax, fee increases get chilly reception from GOP

February 2nd, 2010 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Republican legislative leaders today expressed reservations about Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen's plan to increase driver license fees, sales taxes on cable services and other select taxes to avoid cutting 341 state positions in areas ranging from driver license station workers to assistant prosecutors.

The proposal, which Gov. Bredesen unveiled Monday as part of his proposed 2010-2011 budget, would raise an estimated $71.7 million annually.

"There is some concern in the ranks about increasing fees or taxes on Tennesseans right now," Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said. "We need to understand their (Bredesen officials') thinking."

The administration wants to hike driver license fees from $19.50 every five years to $46 every eight years. Administration officials say the $21.9 million raised would let the safety department keep 85 state troopers and 56 driver license station workers on the job as well as help the department replace its problematic communications system.

Another Bredesen proposal calls for hiking taxes in several areas to raise another $49.8 million to avoid laying off 200 assistant prosecutors, assistant public defenders, probation officers and foresters. One proposed tax increase would raise $21.3 million by boosting sales taxes on cable bills and subjecting cable boxes to use taxes.

"I don't think that ends up passing the General Assembly," Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said today of the cable-related taxes.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.