Local Republicans learn about Amendment 3

Friday, October 24, 2014

By Karen Hall


The Marshall County Republican Party moved its October meeting to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association headquarters Wednesday, the better to accommodate the larger-than-usual group who gathered to hear from State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown).

Kelsey, 36, is criss-crossing the state talking about the Constitutional Amendment he managed to get on November's ballot.

It is Amendment 3, the one which states there will never be an income tax in Tennessee.

"Yes on 3 -- Income Tax Free," is the slogan.

Kelsey is an attorney, and has been in state politics, first in the House and now in the Senate, since 2004.

The last push towards having an income tax in Tennessee came in July 2001, when he was still a law student at Georgetown University, Kelsey said.

"The income tax was killed that day," he said, thanks to then-State Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who rallied scores of motorists to surround the capitol and honk their horns.

But to prevent it ever happening again, Kelsey began to work on an amendment that would constitutionally ban an income tax in the state. He tried to introduce it in 2005, but the Democrats, then in the majority, shot it down.

Now, with a Republican super majority in the legislature, his amendment has made it onto the ballot.

"Yes on 3 will bring more jobs," Kelsey said. "We can say we will never have an income tax. In effect, it's a raise for a company's employees, compared to neighboring states.

"The states with an income tax live by the tax, and die by the tax," he continued. "Revenues go up, and government spending goes up. Then tax revenues go down and there's a huge gap to make up. The only solution is to cut spending or increase taxes. This is a fiscally responsible move. It's absolutely the right thing to do."

Amendment 3 also bans local payroll tax, which is "income tax by another name" and has already been proposed by the City of Memphis.

"Even the liberals voted it down," Kelsey said, but if payroll tax were accepted in one city, it would spread across the state, he warned.

The amendment is written in language which will "prevent any judge messing with it," he explained, but this makes it hard for the ordinary voter to understand, and therefore they might not vote on it.

Kelsey reiterated the point recently made by local attorney Drew Davidson in a letter to the editor: if you cast a vote for governor, and then fail to vote on one or more of the four amendments, it counts as a "No" vote on that amendment. For a Constitutional amendment to pass, it has to have a "Yes" vote from 50 percent, plus one, of those who voted for governor.

Unlike the controversial Amendment 1, which gives legislators the power to regulate women's access to abortions in Tennessee, and has drawn funding on both sides from outside the state, Amendment 3 is of purely local interest, and it's not a partisan issue.

"It's a completely grassroots campaign," Kelsey said. "Tell your friends and family members. Get the word out and I think it will pass.

"Voting 'Yes' for something you don't want trips people up," pointed out State Rep. Billy Spivey.

"Study hard, and get out and vote," said Party Chairman Stacey Cothran at the end of the evening. "Please get out and go vote; it is very important!"