Wamp says Haslam may push state tax

Wamp says Haslam may push state tax

July 28th, 2010 by Andy Sher in Politics State

NASHVILLE - Republican Zach Wamp on Tuesday questioned GOP gubernatorial rival Bill Haslam's commitment to opposing a state income tax.

U.S. Rep. Wamp, R-Tenn., noted that, as Knoxville's mayor, Haslam hiked property taxes almost 15 percent, blaming it on his predecessor.

"I'm the only Republican candidate running who has not raised taxes and we have got to hold the line," Wamp said during a "teleforum" call with Tennessee members of the National Federation of Independent Business. "When (Haslam) became mayor, he said his predecessor left him in an awkward position and he just had to raise taxes."

Wamp said Tennessee's next governor will be in a similar "awkward" position when he takes office in January because federal stimulus money "evaporates."

"Is this the same kind of logic going to be used next year that, 'Oh, we're just going to have to raise taxes'?" he asked.

Wamp also said that, when Gov. Don Sundquist pushed a state income tax in the late 1990s, Haslam family members backed a pro-tax reform group called Citizens for Fair Taxes.

"I can see a scenario where they would say, 'Well we just don't have any choice. We're just going to have to go ahead and push through a state income tax," Wamp said.

Haslam had left the teleforum call prior to Wamp's charge. Campaign spokesman David Smith later scoffed at the congressman's assertion.

"Bill Haslam has been clear from the beginning that he's 100 percent against an income tax," Smith said. "The congressman's campaign is fading ... he's desperately throwing charges at the wall hoping something will stick."

Also participating in the teleforum was Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter. GOP candidate Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, sought to participate but was unable to do so because of a technical glitch.

Wamp also argued that continued extensions of unemployment compensation have created "disincentives" for people to find work.

"We want people out there scraping and clawing and looking for work and not just sitting back waiting," he said.

Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council President Jerry Lee later said "we've got people out there scraping and clawing and looking for jobs already and there are six applicants for every job."

Also participating in the teleforum was Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter. GOP candidate Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, sought to participate but was unable to do so because of a technical glitch.