(NASHVILLE, TN), June 28, 2013 — July 1 marks the beginning of the new 2013-14 fiscal year in Tennessee as the state’s budget passed by the General Assembly in April becomes effective. Many other new laws are also set to become effective as the new month is ushered in, including several significant tax relief measures which accompanied the budget and two new laws that will give prosecutors additional tools to bring violent criminals to justice.
The $32.8 billion budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year incorporates approximately $43 million in tax cuts for Tennesseans, building on $50 million in tax relief passed by the legislature in the previous year. The tax reduction legislation effective Monday raises the Hall Income Tax exemption level from $26,200 to $33,000 for single filers and from $37,000 to $59,000 for joint filers, allowing more senior citizens to quality for relief. A second key measure continues reduction of the state sales tax on food by lowering it from 5.25% to 5.0%.
“This new law allows more seniors to qualify for Hall Tax relief,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), who sponsored the bill. Norris also sponsored the constitutional amendment to enact property tax freezes for senior citizens by Tennessee municipalities. “It dovetails very well with our property tax relief amendment for seniors and helps those who have saved for their retirement.”
The budget also provides funds to raise the inheritance tax exemption level from $1.25 million to $2 million as authorized by a new law passed by the General Assembly last year. Plus, the package provides tax relief for low income seniors, veterans and the disabled by fully funding the growth of the property tax freeze program sponsored by Norris that was enacted in 2007.
In addition to tax relief, Norris said the 2013-2014 budget reflects a commitment by lawmakers and Governor Haslam to foster an environment for job growth across Tennessee and contains multiple programs to help business owners grow and thrive. The budget includes funding for a key bill sponsored by Norris to create the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP). That measure allows students at Tennessee’s technology centers and community colleges to combine occupational training in a high-skill or high-technology industry with academic credit and to apply that experience toward a degree.
“I am very excited about this legislation,” said Norris. “It lays the foundation for the cooperative effort of government, higher education and businesses looking for skilled workers for purposes of providing on-the-job apprenticeship training. The cooperative training then counts as part of an approved curriculum toward a meaningful certificate or degree, effectively enabling Tennesseans to simultaneously work, earn and learn.”
Among public safety laws set to take effect on July 1 is a major anti-crime law that will make it easier to prosecute criminal gang activity in Tennessee. The legislation builds on a series of laws sponsored by Norris over the past several years to curb gun-related violence and focus resources on keeping violent criminals in prison longer to protect the public.
“Last year we enacted legislation that set the stage for increasing penalties for criminal gang activity,” said Leader Norris. “What we did this year was come back and make the law clearer as to what crimes constitute gang activity to give prosecutors new tools in the fight against gang violence.”
Similarly, prosecutors will be given a new weapon in rape cases where the statute of limitations is about to expire under a measure that goes into effect on July 1. The new law, co-sponsored by Norris, allows for a “John Doe” arrest warrant to be obtained using the perpetrator’s DNA profile.
“This saves the case from dismissal on grounds that too much time has passed,” added Senator Norris. “This legislation ensures that Tennessee law keeps pace with emerging DNA science so that prosecutions will be kept alive even when the perpetrator can’t be brought to justice within the time allowed by the statute of limitations.”