Five of the six top-tier candidates for governor say they would support a state sales tax on online retailers doing business in Tennessee.

The question arose in Chattanooga Monday night during a forum hosted by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Present were Republicans Randy Boyd, Bill Lee and Beth Harwell and Democrats Craig Fitzhugh and Karl Dean.

Republican Congressman Diane Black was invited but cited a scheduling conflict as a reason for being unable to attend.

Dean was the first candidate to take the question about whether he would approve of states collecting sales tax from online retailers following Thursday's Supreme Court decision allowing them to do so. The candidates were also asked what he they would like to do with the additional revenue.

Dean said he would support the tax because the state needs the revenue and because it is the fair thing to do.

"Folks who operate businesses here are competing against people out of state who are selling to Tennessee and not paying taxes on it, so it kind of levels the ground," Dean said.

The former Nashville mayor said he would spend the extra revenue investing in public education and paying teachers more.

Williamson County businessman Lee said he looks at the potential tax as a way to protect businesses in the state.

"When we have businesses in Tennessee and their bricks and mortar are here and they are doing business here and they are selling products to the citizens of this state and they are having to compete with a company that’s out of state that’s doing online sales, that isn’t having to compete on the same levels, it’s not fair to our businesses," he said.

Lee also said that while Tennessee is a low-tax state for individuals, that's not necessarily the case for businesses.

"Our franchise and excise taxes in Tennessee are not competitive with the adjacent states," he said.

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