Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Republican sponsor of a proposal to reduce the sales tax on groceries in Tennessee said Wednesday he's open to working with Democrats who have a similar measure if it would help the legislation's passage.
The bill by Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin was placed behind the budget in the House Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday. It will be revisited if any money is left after the state's budget is set.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has included $2 million for lawmakers to appropriate on items not in his agenda, which means many proposals may not get funded.
Casada's legislation would reduce the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent, while the Democrats have a plan that would drop it a half-cent more.
Haslam's budget contains a proposal to reduce the sales tax to 5.3 percent. Casada said he applauds the governor's effort, but would like to see the tax reduced further. He estimates his proposal would cost $42 million.
"By no means am I going to stop looking," Casada said. "I'm more than hopeful. I'm sitting down with a lot of folks."
One individual Casada said he's willing to talk to is Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley, the main sponsor of the Democratic tax proposal.
Fitzhugh said he's open to hearing what Casada has to say.
"I just want to move it as quickly as we can," Fitzhugh said of the sales tax legislation.
Two separate tax proposals sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington were delayed several weeks on Wednesday. One would phase out the Hall income tax over three years, and the other would do the same with the inheritance tax.
Haslam has said the state can't afford to do away with the Hall tax, but his budget does include increasing the exemption for the inheritance tax from $1 million to $1.25 million.
Naifeh said he wants to give the proposals "more thought and deliberation."
Another proposal that was placed behind the budget in the House Finance Subcommittee deals with immigration. The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas gives law enforcement officers on the street the authority to ascertain whether someone is a legal resident during an arrest or traffic stop.
Currently, officers in city and county jails are required to determine a person's legal status. Carr estimates the change would cost at least $4.5 million.
"I can't tell you the details, but I think we have a way to generate funding," Carr told reporters outside the committee. "Putting it behind the budget doesn't kill it. It basically parks it so we can find the funding."
Read HB2239, HB0307, HB2445, HB2446 and HB1380 at http://capitol.tn.gov .
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