Blackburn: Tennesseans' fight against the state income tax

Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Every time rumblings of a state income tax became prevalent in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Tennesseans across the state were motivated. They wanted to do something to fight this tax. They did not want a state income tax and certainly did not want to spend more to pay for a broken TennCare system. They said, "Enough is enough. Fix the problem. Don't just throw money at it."

photo Rep. Marsha Blackburn

So, they showed up to fight back over and over again. On several occasions, but most famously in 2001 and 2002, those who did not have the time to join us at Legislative Plaza simply circled the capitol area honking their horns in show of support for the patriots gathered to oppose a new tax.

Never had I given thought to the number of different types of car horns that existed. It had not been even a fleeting thought until we had the tax revolt in Tennessee. To me, all the horns, music and conversations were the sounds of freedom at work.

The state income tax battle was a four-year endeavor that started in 1999 and ended in 2002. Sure, it was a tough fight, but it was the right type battle to pick. Placing another tax to pay for another program was wrong for the state; time has borne that theory out.

Today, we all cheer when we hear yet another business periodical has ranked our state as one of the top five states in which to do business. This happened not only due to the low tax structure of the state but also to the good management of the state's resources. The state's General Assembly is to be commended for taking action on the will of the people, pushing forward a constitutional amendment, and the people passed that amendment in 2014. We will never have a state income tax. The issue is settled.

As I led the opposition to the tax, the days and weeks turned into months and years. What I learned is that Tennesseans are loyal to the principles of small government and a representative government. They did not give up on the idea that we in Tennessee could defy the odds and get the growth of government under control, hold the government accountable and solve the problem, not kick the can down the road and allow the problem to continue to grow.

Arriving in Congress, I made good on a promise from my first campaign in 2002. I would work to restore your ability to deduct your state and local sales tax from your federal income tax filing. I accomplished that goal, and President George W. Bush signed the legislation into law. In 2005, Tennesseans and other no-income-tax states saw fairness return for them in the federal tax code.

Over the years, I have continued to fight to make the tax system simpler and easier for Tennessee businesses and households to navigate, and last year, we made significant progress when President Trump signed historic tax reform into law. As Tennesseans file their federal tax returns, you will see even more of your money remains in your wallet.

I have not forgotten why we opposed the state income tax, and I am so pleased that Tennessee continues to see the benefits to this day. I will continue the fight for the same principles so many Tennesseans stood for during the tax income fight.

Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who represents Tennessee's 7th Congressional District, is running for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee.