KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Public higher education in Tennessee needs more funding, even if it means changing the state’s tax structure, University of Tennessee President Joe Johnson said Friday.
Johnson was recalling the comments he made a day earlier to the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
”I closed by saying public higher education clearly needs more money,” Johnson said. ”Our leaders need to be attentive to that and if someday that means the tax structure needs to be reassessed, it needs to be reassessed.”
The commission, which is made up of legislators, local government officials and agency representatives, has been asked by the Tennessee General Assembly to take a look at possible changes in the state’s tax system and make a report in January.
Johnson said he made no specific recommendations regarding the tax structure, which currently depends on the sales tax for more than half of each revenue dollar.
He said the commission should bear in mind two points:
— Tennesseans, compared with residents of states such as Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina, are not taxed nearly as much as residents of those states.
— In recent years, public higher education has not done very well, comparatively, because of other priorities in state funding.
”If you look at comparative salaries for faculty and some other things in Tennessee public higher education, you see the trend line is in the wrong direction,” Johnson said.