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Beacon Center Praises General Assembly for Rejecting Medicaid Expansion

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; February 4, 2015:

The Beacon Center applauds legislators for rejecting a Medicaid expansion in Tennessee. Instead of supporting this extension of Obamacare in our state, lawmakers stood with the Beacon Center and fought for what was right, choosing taxpayers over special interest groups.

While the Beacon Center disagreed with Governor Haslam’s plan, we do want to thank him for bringing an important issue to light and trying to come up with a unique Tennessee solution to this issue. We also believe those who supported “Insure Tennessee” had the best of intentions, and we look forward to working with them in the coming months to find a responsible, cost-effective, free market solution that will truly benefit low-income Tennesseans.

“While stopping the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare was a necessary first step, it is still our responsibility as Tennesseans to find affordable healthcare solutions for our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen.

To that end, Beacon is calling for passage of right-to-try legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to access potentially life-saving medicine. Beacon will also work with state leaders to expand access to charity care, reduce the costs imposed by health insurance mandates, and allow Tennesseans to purchase health insurance across state lines.

“There are many things we can do to make healthcare and health insurance more affordable and accessible for all Tennesseans,” said Lindsay Boyd, Beacon Director of Policy. “We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work helping those most in need.”

Beacon Releases Anti-Insure TN Ad

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; January 27, 2015:

The Beacon Center of Tennessee today launched a radio ad ahead of the legislative debate over a Medicaid expansion. Amid massive spending by expansion proponents—led by the hospitals that will benefit from the expansion—state lawmakers will convene next Monday to vote on Gov. Haslam’s proposed expansion of Medicaid to more than 200,000 able-bodied adults.

The 60-second ad, titled “That’s Just Not Fair,” features a discussion between a senior citizen and her daughter about the proposed Medicaid expansion. It is running on radio stations in the Knoxville media market. You can listen to the full ad here.

“As lawmakers consider expanding Medicaid in our state under Obamacare, it’s important to realize how we got here, and what the consequences of that decision will be,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. “Ultimately, Congress made cuts to Medicare to fund other parts of Obamacare, including the expansion of Medicaid in the states. As the ad notes, that’s just not fair to our seniors.”

Here is the full text of the one-minute radio spot, “That’s Just Not Fair”:

Mom: Hey Amy, I heard state lawmakers will be voting to expand Medicaid here soon. What’s that all about?

Amy: It would mean giving government health insurance to more than 200,000 able-bodied Tennesseans under Obamacare.

Mom: Well, even if they’re able-bodied, it’s free federal money so what’s the big deal?

Amy: There’s no such thing as a free lunch, mom. In fact, the Medicaid expansion will be paid in part by $716 billion in cuts to seniors’ Medicare benefits.

Mom: To give health insurance to able-bodied adults?

Amy: You got it.

Mom: If they’re able-bodied, they can get a job…I can’t. And they want me to pay for them? That’s just not fair.

Amy: Well, that’s why it’s important for our state lawmakers to say no to Obama’s Medicaid expansion.

Mom: I agree. Don’t make seniors pay for more Obamacare in Tennessee. That’s just not fair.

To learn more about how a Medicaid expansion will impact your family, visit www.BeaconTN.org. That’s BeaconTN.org.

PAID FOR BY THE BEACON CENTER OF TENNESSEE

Beacon Center Produces ‘Roadmap to Freedom’ for Upcoming Legislative Session

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; December 3, 2013:

NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee, the state’s leading free market public policy organization, today released its biennial publication, “An Idea a Day.” This year’s publication is styled as “a roadmap to freedom” and represents an actual roadmap. It contains 57 freedom-oriented ideas, one for each remaining legislative day of the 108th Tennessee General Assembly.

The roadmap offers concise, one-sentence policy ideas that will lead to a freer, more prosperous Tennessee. Each idea is accompanied by a link to more information about the topic. Among the issues covered are education, healthcare, taxes and spending, property rights, government reform, regulation, transportation, and cronyism.

“Tennessee is primed to become a leader in reforms that expand freedoms and make our state the envy of every other,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “This roadmap serves as a guide for lawmakers looking to press ahead with bold reforms that will lead to a freer, more prosperous Tennessee.”

Hardcopies of the roadmap will be provided to each member of the state legislature. The ideas are offered in an online listing here. A full online version of the roadmap is also available for download at this link: http://www.beacontn.org/wp-content/uploads/2013-Idea-a-Day.pdf

The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. The Center is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan research organization committed to providing timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

Beacon Center Releases New Report on Education Funding, Results

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; August 19, 2013:

NASHVILLE – A new study released today analyzes taxpayer spending on public education in Tennessee. In the study, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, the state’s premier free market policy organization, looked at the amount taxpayers actually spend on education versus what is reported, where that money goes, and whether more funding equals better results.

The first of its kind in Tennessee, the report titled “Following the Money: A Tennessee Education Spending Primer,” reached some troubling conclusions. First, the amount that taxpayers already spend on public education is significantly underreported. While the average stated amount spent per pupil is $9,123 per year, the true figure is about 11 percent more than reported, or $10,088 per student.

Of that funding, less than 54 percent is directed at classroom instruction, such as teacher salaries, textbooks, and other instructional spending. And that figure is in constant decline, whereas administrative spending is on the upswing. Since 2000, the number of administrators in Tennessee’s education system has grown by 34.5 percent, while the number of teachers has increased by less than 17 percent, and the number of students has grown by just seven percent.

Administrators’ salaries have also outpaced those of teachers during that time period. In fact, when factoring for inflation, teachers make less money today than they did in 2000.

“Not only have taxpayers been misinformed about how much we spend on education, there has been a growing trend of adding administrative personnel, redirecting funding away from the classroom,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen.

Finally, after comparing similarly situated school districts within the state, while also comparing Tennessee to other states, the report found no measurable correlation between spending and student performance.

“Ultimately, more spending does not equal better results,” said Owen. “Rather than allocate more money, especially on administrative personnel, public school districts should focus on spending education funds more wisely. Only then can Tennessee expect to provide its students with the quality education they deserve.”

The full report can be found at http://www.beacontn.org/wp-content/uploads/Following-the-Money.pdf.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.

Beacon Center Supports Haslam Medicaid Decision

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; March 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam announced today that he would not currently seek Tennessee’s participation in a Medicaid expansion as envisioned by President Obama’s signature healthcare law. Instead, Haslam will focus on reforming the entitlement program known in the state as TennCare.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee applauds Gov. Haslam on his decision. The governor has spent much time and energy studying the impact of a Medicaid expansion. After the federal government rejected his request for flexibility to reform TennCare in lieu of an outright expansion, he rightly concluded that merely expanding the program now is bad policy for both TennCare recipients and taxpayers alike.

Over the past several months, the Beacon Center has worked to inform policymakers and the general public that a Medicaid expansion would be unaffordable and immoral. Through policy reports, media interviews, opinion articles, and an infographic, the Beacon Center made the case that both taxpayers and TennCare recipients would be harmed by an expansion.

“We are proud of Gov. Haslam for standing up against this ill-conceived plan to add more struggling Tennesseans to a broken TennCare program,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “Even President Obama himself said that healthcare reform should not be just about adding more people to the rolls of the government-run healthcare program before seeking to do just that.”

TennCare already eats up 27 cents on every dollar in the state budget, higher than the national average. Rather than expand the program, the governor and lawmakers should consider meaningful reforms that will make TennCare more sustainable and increase recipients’ access to care. A Medicaid expansion would have done the exact opposite, thus making it unaffordable and immoral.

“Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and press for real reforms that will improve the quality of life for TennCare enrollees and protect taxpayers’ wallets,” Owen said. “We look forward to helping advance reforms that will do just that.”

The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.

Beacon Releases Report on School Choice in TN

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; February 25, 2013:

NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee today released a new publication highlighting the school choice stories of families across the state. The report, The Choice is Ours, tells how opportunity scholarships have empowered two Tennessee mothers to obtain a top-notch education for their sons. It also explains how other parents struggle to find quality education options for their children.
The Choice is Ours is part of a Beacon publication series called “Faces of Freedom,” which provides real-life stories of real-life citizens, so that Tennesseans can better understand the impact public policy has on their lives.

When it comes to education, ZIP codes dictate the fate of many Tennessee families. This one-size-fits-all approach leads children across the state to be zoned for schools that fail to meet their unique needs.

“The stories of the families featured in The Choice is Ours stress the positive impact a quality education can have on a child’s life,” said Beacon Center Director of Policy Trey Moore. “While some families are fortunate to have these options, too many remain trapped in schools that fail to meet their needs. That needs to change.”

The report outlines Tennessee’s poor education performance and calls for empowering parents to choose the schools that are best for their children. The report comes as lawmakers consider various proposals to provide greater access to better schools, whether they are private, charter, or public schools.

The full report can be downloaded at http://www.beacontn.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Choice-is-Ours.pdf. Hardcopies can be requested by contacting (615) 383-6431 or info@beacontn.org.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. Visit online at www.BeaconTN.org.

Lights, Camera, Spend: Tennesseans Boost Hollywood With Film Incentives

Did you enjoy ABC’s “Nashville” series? Good, because you’ll be paying for it to the tune of $8.5 million.

Millions of public dollars — in tax credits and, as of this year, via grants — have flowed into the state’s film incentive program to aid productions such as Larry the Cable Guy’s Christmas special, “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and promos for “Monday Night Football.”

In all, Tennessee is on track to fork over $22 million worth of handouts for Hollywood productions that are made in the state, a TNReport review of state records from 2008 to 2012 shows.

“This is one of the most insidious forms of corporate welfare out there,” Trey Moore, with the free-market think tank Beacon Center, said. “It’s hard to argue that this is a good deal for taxpayers.”

To put the amount in context: $22 million could pay for an additional 455 Nashville firefighters or five additional teachers in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties this year.

Tennessee film subsidies

Supporters of the state’s film incentive program say it boosts economic development, spurs job creation and is good marketing for Tennessee. The program is overseen by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Officials point to “Nashville,” ABC’s prime-time soap opera in which a 40-something country star must share the stage with a sassy young starlet.

“The program that’s had the most accolades is the recent film series ‘Nashville,’” Economic and Community Development commissioner Bill Hagerty said during a recent budget hearing.

Bill HagertyBill Hagerty

“The pilot was outstanding,” he said in November. “It still ranks number three in the ratings today, and we’re very optimistic that ‘Nashville’ is putting an important brand on the state and one that’s very positive for us.”

Over the past year, film incentives weren’t just teed up for the show “Nashville,” but to productions such as the faith-based drama “Unconditional,” and “Water for Elephants,” the circus-train romance/animal cruelty flick starring Reese Witherspoon.

Supporters of the incentives say that the program’s front-end money translates into economic benefits for the state, with “Nashville” alone bringing in $49.5 million in economic development. But for most of the program’s short history, the formulas for arriving at such numbers have been kept secret, and it’s still not clear exactly how the $49.5 million is estimated.

See all of the projects that have received public incentives from Tennessee here.

State officials say the program will be more transparent going forward. As of July 1, the state began administering all incentives as grants rather than tax credits — called “spurious” by one study.

There appear to be some benefits to this change, including greater transparency. Under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who launched the incentive program, many of the presumed economic benefits were closed to the public. Benefits to film companies were in the form of tax credits, and a great deal of tax information in Tennessee is not public under state law.

But now, under Gov. Bill Haslam: “It is a more transparent process,” ECD spokesman Clint Brewer told TNReport. “The collapsing of the tax credit had several benefits, and that’s one of them. By and large everything we do in this department is an open record.”

It’s now easier for smaller and independent film productions to tap into the cash, too.

“The result is that we took a complicated, burdensome process that involved tax credits and a lot of paperwork and streamlined it significantly,” Brewer said.

But critics of the program doubt the benefits from the movies move the economic needle in Tennessee.

“This is just another example of corporate welfare,” said Moore, of the Beacon Center. “It’s rampant across the country when it comes to the film and movie industry, and, unfortunately, it’s hard to identify what’s really coming in the door.”

All these film incentives have Hollywood licking its chops: The Los Angeles-based Screen Actors Guild makes a web page available to all its members showing the film tax and grant benefits available in states across the U.S.

What of all those other states that have taxpayer-supported film incentive programs? Won’t jobs leave Tennessee and head there? Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri all have robust film incentive programs. And Louisiana is the granddaddy of film incentives in the U.S. — second only to California and New York — garnering the nickname “Hollywood South.”

“If giving away money is a good way to create jobs when you’re not getting anything in return, I would have a hard time believing that,” Moore said. “It’s a notoriously fickle industry. There’s no guarantee that even once we give them this money that this is going to stick around.”

It’s not just the fiscal conservatives who question grants to film companies.
The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities conducted a national study on film subsidies and found that “in the harsh light of reality, film subsidies offer little bang for the buck.”

The study found:

+ Subsidies reward companies for production that they might have done anyway. Some makers of movie and TV shows have close, long-standing relationships with particular states. Had those states not introduced or expanded film subsidies, most such producers would have continued to work in the state anyway. But there is no practical way for a state to limit subsidies only to productions that otherwise would not have happened.

+ The best jobs go to non-residents. The workforce at most sites outside of Los Angeles and New York City lacks the specialized skills producers need to shoot a film. Consequently, producers import scarce, highly paid talent from other states. Jobs for in-state residents tend to be spotty, part-time, and relatively low-paying work — hairdressing, security, carpentry, sanitation, moving, storage, and catering — that is unlikely to build the foundations of strong economic development in the long term.

+ Subsidies don’t pay for themselves. The revenue generated by economic activity induced by film subsidies falls far short of the subsidies’ direct costs to the state. To balance its budget, the state must therefore cut spending or raise revenues elsewhere, dampening the subsidies’ positive economic impact.

And while Tennessee officials boast that film subsidies can lead to good public relations for the state, some states’ programs have backfired in the PR department.

Louisiana recently received a black eye when consultants determined the program wasn’t getting the results officials said it was.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Louisiana, for instance, estimates that for every dollar it paid out in tax incentives for film projects over the last three years, it got back tax revenue of 24 cents. Still, the state’s analysis shows that film jobs in the state rose from about 900 in 2001 to about 5,000 now, so although the Big Easy’s state loses money on every job, it presumably hopes to make it up in volume.

Iowa’s film program was rocked by a scandal when prosecutors charged the state’s former film chief with various felonies, including official misconduct over his handling of state film tax credits.

Michigan was hit with some ironic bad press after reporters found that the state had coughed up more than $831,000 in tax dollars for “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Michael Moore’s movie that, in part, is critical of companies that accept corporate welfare.

Tennessee film subsidies by year

Under Haslam, the state has accelerated spending on film incentives, with more dollars thrown at moviemakers in 2012 than in 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.

“As part of Governor Haslam’s Jobs4TN economic development plan, the entertainment industry was identified as one of the key industries in which the state has a clear competitive advantage,” Hagerty said in a statement last year after legislation was passed giving the film incentive program a $2 million boost.

At the same time, the brass behind the show “Nashville” is not so subtly indicating that if they don’t get additional incentives, they’ll pack up their Dobros and go home.

“The show’s backers are saying additional incentives — the extension of a heightened state reimbursement and other possibilities — will likely be needed to justify the cost of continued filming in Music City,” the Nashville Business Journal reported. “The fact that the show, which has seen ratings drop since its premiere before regaining some ground (in November), has been picked up means there will be a full season for backers to tout and public officials to weigh.”

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@tnreport.com, on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

Beacon Center Ranks Brentwood Most Business-Friendly City in TN

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; November 19, 2012:

NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee, the state’s free market think tank, today announced the results of its seventh annual ranking of the state’s 50 most populous cities based on their business climate. The ranking is the result of data collected across ten factors considered to affect economic stability and growth.

This year’s Most Business-Friendly City is Brentwood. Later this month, the Center will present Brentwood city officials with a plaque commemorating the honor.

The study, titled How Business-Friendly are Tennessee’s Cities?, scores each city in three categories that reflect a commitment to encouraging business success and fostering economic growth. Those categories are Economic Vitality, Business Tax Burden, and Community Allure.

Brentwood has consistently ranked toward the top, placing a close second for the past two years in a row. In 2012, its performance in a range of categories, including low taxes, a quality education system, strong population growth, high median income, low crime, and above average job growth, led it to the top overall spot.

“Brentwood is an inviting place to do business,” said the Beacon Center’s Director of Policy Trey Moore, co-author of the report. “The city’s dedication to economic growth, low taxes, and community allure has paid off, leading it to the top of the business-friendly rankings.”

The Middle Tennessee city finished first in the Economic Vitality category, sixth in Business Tax Burden, and fifteenth in the less-weighted category of Community Allure.

“This award is a reflection of Brentwood’s commitment to creating a climate that is free of stifling taxes and inviting to businesses and entrepreneurs,” Moore said. “We applaud the local elected officials and business leaders for earning the distinction as Tennessee’s Most Business-Friendly City in 2012.”

The full report, along with the ranking of each of Tennessee’s 50 most populous cities, can be found at http://www.beacontn.org/wp-content/uploads/2012-Business-Friendly-Cities-Report.pdf. For simple list of the rankings without the full report, click here.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan research organization committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee. The Beacon Center’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.

Obamacare Adversary Calls for More Patient, Doctor Control

A prominent national free-market critic of the federal Affordable Care Act laid out his vision for “curing” America’s “health care crisis” during a private event in Nashville Wednesday hosted by the Beacon Center of Tennessee.

The event was closed to the media, but Goodman spoke with TNReport for a few minutes before the event.

“The biggest problem with the health care market, unlike other markets, is that we have completely suppressed normal market forces,” said John C. Goodman, who leads the National Center for Policy Analysis, a group that promotes private-sector alternatives to government programs and regulations. “As a consequence no one ever sees a real price for anything … and we have a bureaucratic, dysfunctional system.”

The way out, Goodman says, is to liberate the consumer and give patients more control over their own health care spending.

Goodman says changes to the healthcare landscape are possible and points to a recent innovation at Walmart as an example. Earlier this month Walmart announced a program that offers workers heart, spine, and transplant surgeries with no expenses for the worker — as long as the surgery is performed at one of six hospital systems across the U.S.

“That’s an example of an employer doing something pretty radical to step outside the normal, third-party payer system,” he said.

He also said that government requiring individuals to buy insurance opens the door for special interests to take advantage.

“Once you start specifying what the individual has to buy, then all the special interests come in, as they did in Massachusetts. Then you’ll get the acupuncturists, the in vitro fertilization folks and the naturopaths,” Goodman said. “Every special interest will want to be part of the insurance plan, and then it will be very expensive.”

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@tnreport.com on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

TVA Ratepayers Make Up Pension Shortfall

The Tennessee Valley Authority is facing a multibillion-dollar pension shortfall, and it appears the federal utility has been scrambling to shore up the losses with ratepayer cash.

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

When investment markets tanked in 2008 and TVA’s pension fund took a nearly $2 billion dive, the tab for making sure there was enough money to cover commitments to 24,000 retirees fell to electric ratepayers. 

Fully funded, TVA’s retirement plan should total $11.5 billion.

Instead, it now stands at $7 billion.

TVA has infused it with almost $1.3 billion since 2009 — ratepayer money.

There’s a bigger problem, though, says Justin Owen with the Beacon Center, a Nashville-based free-market think tank: Pension problem are rampant throughout the country, and politicians are moving too slow to apply fixes.

“The (TVA) story is symptomatic of a larger problem,” Owen said. “What it amounts to us political promises. Now we’re seeing that many of those promises… are empty promises.”

Beacon has studied pension problems across the U.S. recently, looking at how pension bailouts across the nation would affect Tennessee taxpayers.

“We have to stop making these promises in the future,” Owen said. “We can’t afford it.”

He said that public entities need to move to retirement plans similar to the 401(k) plans offered in the private sector.