Senate eyes recess while House tussels with taxes

State Senate leaders are considering a week’s recess in late April to let the House catch up in acting on legislation – most notably Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package and the interrelated state budget for the next fiscal year.

And there’s more senatorial criticism of House Speaker Beth Harwell’s move to seek an alternative to the Haslam plan that does not include a gas tax increase.

The budget cannot be approved until the fate of Haslam’s tax plans is decided. Senators expect to approve their latest version, including gas and diesel fuel tax hikes, in Finance Committee next week, clearing it for a floor vote. Harwell, on the other hand, says she wants to instead propose an alternative to the Haslam plan next week.

From the Times-Free Press:

“There’s a fine line between indecision and deception,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, told reporters when asked about (Harwell’s move).  “Next question.”

Asked to elaborate what deception he was referring to, Norris replied, “it’s hard to tell.”

(Note: Both Harwell and Norris are considering a run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination next year.)

… Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson, posted a video to twitter saying his panel is expecting to hear the IMPROVE Act next week. He, McCormick and others now call the IMPROVE Act “The 2017 Tax Reduction Act” based on there being a greater tax reduction dollar-wise than fuel tax increases.

If the bill passes out of the Senate committee, Watson said, there would be debate April 20 on the Senate floor. If it passes, then Haslam would bring his customary amendment making various changes in the budget based on legislative action to Watson’s committee on April 24.

(If the House has not resolved the tax issue by then, the Senate would go into recess for the legislative week beginning Monday, the 24th. Norris filed a resolution setting the stage for a recess on Thursday.)

“But’s let’s be optimistic,” said Watson said, noting that if everything goes to plan, lawmakers would be ready to adjourn their annual session the week of May 8.

Further from the Tennessean:

On the Senate floor, Norris said the one-week recess is necessary in order to allow the House to catch up on various issues, although he did not point to any specific issue, while offering a bit of a jab at the the lower chamber.

“Every time we try to be open and forthright about our planning and our schedule, somebody in another chamber in this capitol gets their pants in a twist,” he said.

Norris said his resolution was needed “just in case we continue to have no sense of progress in the House.”

… After the floor session, Norris said the move could be necessary because “we’re so far ahead that there’s nothing to do but sit around.”

McNally said the Senate is “nearing the finish line and we don’t want people just sitting here doing nothing.”

Note: Last year, the legislative session ended on April 20. Last week, talk was that adjournment won’t come until May 10th or later.

And, from Nashville Post Politics:

Democrats also bashed Harwell’s new stance today, saying they will not vote for any amended version of Greenville Rep. David Hawk’s tax plan, which failed in committee earlier this year; Harwell’s plan is reputed to adopt some aspects of it.

“If you got a team of tax professionals to come up with the worst possible plan, I think you’d end up with the Hawk plan,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart, before taking a further dig at Harwell. “Unless you’re a Republican primary voter, there’s not much in the Hawk plan to favor.”

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