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Ramsey: Past Sales Tax Holidays Have Been Successful

Press Release from Lt. Gov. and GOP Candidate for Governor Ron Ramsey; Aug. 2, 2010;

Tax Holiday Set for August 6 – 8

(NASHVILLE) – Local businesses and consumers will get a boost from the “sales tax holiday” set to begin this Friday, August 6 and ending Sunday, August 8 according to Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, a key supporter of the measure passed by the General Assembly in 2005. The holiday, which has been in effect since 2006, is set by law to take place at 12:01 a.m. on the first Friday in August and ends at 11:59 p.m. on the following Sunday.

“Every year since its implementation, this sales tax holiday weekend continues to be a big boost for retail businesses in Tennessee, proving tax relief is a key factor in stimulating the economy ,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “It also provides tax relief for working families, particularly those who are buying back-to-school clothing and supplies.”

Ramsey said the holiday is particularly geared toward back to school needs, but it applies to clothing and many other items, which helps consumers of any age. During the holiday, clothing and school supplies with a price of $100 or less per item, and computers with a price of $1,500 or less per item will be exempt from the state sales and use tax. Clothing includes shirts, dresses, pants, coats, gloves, hats and caps, hosiery, neckties, belts, sneakers, shoes, uniforms and scarves. School supplies include items used by a student in a course of study. It also includes binders, book bags, calculators, tape, chalk, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, notebooks, paper, ruler, and scissors.

“I am very pleased that this legislation was approved and has provided tax relief to our citizens, as well as a boost to our economy. I hope many citizens will continue take advantage of this sales tax holiday this year.” Ramsey concluded.

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Press Releases

Wamp Takes Aim at Haslam’s Position on Guns

Press Release from Zach Wamp for Governor; July 12, 2010:

NASHVILLE – On the eve of tonight’s statewide gubernatorial debate, the media is once again focusing on Bill Haslam’s repeated attempts to mislead voters about his real record – this time in a Haslam mailing on guns and 2nd Amendment rights – which WBIR-TV in Knoxville concluded was “misleading” and a “stretch” of the truth.

Specifically, the WBIR report released last week concluded the following about Haslam’s statewide mail piece on guns:

“As part of our continuing Heart of the Matter series, we took a look at one of the more recent Haslam mailings that focuses on gun rights as we separate fact from fiction. In that mailer, Haslam says he has kept Knoxville ‘the most gun friendly big city in Tennessee’. That claim is a stretch…

Finally, the mailer mentions Haslam’s ‘Life Membership’ in the National Rifle Association. In other fliers he’s touted a ‘Lifetime Membership.’ That claim is misleading, Haslam is a relatively new member. Haslam joined the NRA in 2009. Like most any American can, he purchased a Life Membership for $1,000. With it, he retains membership in the NRA for the rest of his life.”

“Mayor Haslam is once again trying to talk the talk on guns, but we’ve known all along that he’s never walked the walk, especially when it comes to the 2nd Amendment” said Sam Edelen, Wamp campaign spokesman.

“Mayor Haslam joined Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-gun group in 2006 and only quit it last year when he began running for governor. He’s pretending to be something he’s not, and Tennesseans know the difference between a real conservative like Zach and a guy who’s pretending to be one on television.”

Haslam’s latest misleading claims follow earlier efforts by his campaign to take credit for something he didn’t do. Both the Associated Press and the Knoxville-based WATE-TV recently took Haslam to task for false claims he made about job creation in a television ad, in which Haslam erroneously boasts that he “helped create more than 11,000 jobs” while working for his family’s Pilot Corporation.

WATE’s Gene Patterson, who subjected Haslam’s ad to his time-honored “Truth Test,” labeled the claim “misleading,” and the Associated Press wrote the following about Haslam’s job creation claim:

“On the campaign trail and in television ads, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam boasts of his role in creating 11,000 jobs as an executive with family-owned Pilot Corp.

Yet a count by The Associated Press shows that nearly half that many jobs were added to the Knoxville-based company’s payroll through mergers and acquisitions of other truck stop chains.

The 11,000 new jobs figure includes about 4,000 existing positions that were added through a 2001 joint venture with Marathon that re-branded 110 Speedway and Super America stores as Pilot Travel Centers. Another 1,400 were added when Pilot acquired 60 truck stops from Williams Co. in 2003.”

WATE also examined Haslam’s claim that he’s responsible for Knoxville having the “lowest property tax rate in 50 years.” Patterson also labeled that statement “misleading” and noted that during his first full year as mayor, Haslam recommended a 35-cent increase in the City’s property tax rate, adding:

“So how is it now the lowest in half a century? The campaign says it has to do with the property reappraisals of 2009. Property values went up and the tax rate went down to compensate. What the ad doesn’t say is rates have to go down by law, not by mayoral initiative.”

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Press Releases

Sen. Henry Joins Rep. Odom Calling for Flood-Victim Tax Breaks

Press Release from Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, May 18, 2010:

Legislation would exempt building, appliance purchases from sales tax

NASHVILLE – State Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) sponsored an amendment Tuesday to allow flood victims to be exempt from sales tax for purchases of major appliances and home building supplies.

“Many Nashville flood victims lost everything in their homes, including all their appliances,” Henry said. “Giving them a sales tax break could potentially save them thousands of dollars as they rebuild their lives.”

The amendment to Senate Bill 3901, also known as the technical corrections bill, would exempt anyone receiving federal disaster assistance as a result of the early May flooding from paying state and local sales tax on essential home items. Such items would include major home appliances up to $3,200 each and building materials up to $500 each.

Davidson County has been declared a federal disaster relief area, making residents eligible for federal aid. More than 28,000 Tennesseans have applied for federal disaster relief, and the state sales tax break is one more way lawmakers can help Tennesseans in a time of great need, Henry said.

“I have seen my neighbors across Nashville work together to help each other recover, and I want the State to do its part,” Henry said. “I’m optimistic that my fellow lawmakers and I will get this done.”

If approved, the exemption would run through Sept. 30. The amendment is not expected to severely impact revenues, as the state would not have counted on a drastic increase in such purchases had the floods not occurred.

The measure awaits approval in the Senate and House, where Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) is sponsoring the amendment.

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Business and Economy News Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections

Republicans Rally at Capitol Tax Day Protest

Tennessee GOP lawmakers leapt at the opportunity provided by Thursday’s Legislative Plaza tea party rally to cast themselves as champions of discontented taxpayers and defenders against fiscal irresponsibility and other abuses of government power.

Prominent Republican state representatives and senators mustered around a podium before 300 or so tax-day demonstrators and lashed out in general at government-expanding policies they claim are predominately favored by their political opponents at both the state and federal level.

Gov. Phil Bredesen’s recent proposal to lift the state’s sales tax cap on big-ticket items came in for particular condemnation.

“Just yesterday, Governor Bredesen proposed an $85 million tax increase here in the state of Tennessee on you all, on small businesses,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told the tea party ralliers. “Let me assure you the state Senate under my leadership is going to push back on this tax increase.”

Bredesen this week floated the idea of lifting the sales tax cap as a way to avoid a 5-percent salary cut for all state workers. Currently, the state limits sales taxes to the first $3,200 on purchases. His idea would reportedly raise that limit, although the limit would still apply to purchases of vehicles, boats and manufactured homes.

Republican legislators quickly denounced Bredesen’s suggestion.

“We’ve got a fight ahead of us,” declared state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet.

Other state legislators on hand for the rally included Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville; Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin; Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin; Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet; Rep. Debra Young Maggart, R-Hendersonville; and Terry Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster.

Lynn got people’s attention when she suggested a constitutional convention might be an answer to some of the federal authority being used in Washington.

“I don’t want to scare anybody, but another thing we’re working on, if it gets worse and we have to, we’re working out how we would have a constitutional convention,” Lynn told the crowd. “We’re working on the details.”

Lynn said after her remarks that the hope is not to have to turn to a constitutional convention, but that even if it were to happen it would need to be crafted carefully to make sure delegates remained responsible to the legislature that sent them there, by putting “firewalls” in place. But she emphasized that at this time there is no intention of calling for a constitutional convention.

Tea party protest events are becoming something of the norm on April 15, the last day to file federal tax returns. Nashville had other downtown gatherings at both the Municipal Auditorium and Legislative Plaza.

The life of the tea party is always, of course, the citizens who gather to protest the government.

Kelly Campbell of Mt. Juliet, whose son is in the military, originally planned to be in Washington with her family on Thursday, but when her father was unable to attend she joined a friend at Municipal Auditorium. She criticized the actions of the federal government.

“I don’t believe any of the things they are doing are constitutional,” Campbell said. “My son is serving his country, and I feel like this is one of the greatest betrayals of former, present and future service people there could ever be, and I’m not willing to hand over my freedoms to somebody without a really good reason.

“They don’t need to know if I have insurance or not. They don’t need to know how I teach my children. They don’t need to know if I go to church. Those are mine. It’s not theirs.”

Dick Geyer, from Old Hickory, said his congressman, Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, is an “absolute disgrace. He is not a Blue Dog. He’s a Yellow Dog. He follows blindly whatever Nancy Pelosi does.”

Geyer said he is also going to contribute to candidates elsewhere.

“The current administration and Congress are trampling on all our rights and freedoms,” Geyer said. “They’re turning over what this country has been about for over 200 years, and we’ve got to put a stop to it. We’ve got to get them out in November and we’ve got to get them out in 2012.”

When asked what the response to government should be, Geyer said, “We band together as individuals. We reach out and start calling friends and neighbors that we have probably passively talked to in the past. We get them actively involved and make sure they show up and vote in November.”

Melissa Vaughn, from Nashville, believes people aren’t being held responsible for their actions.

“It feels like we’ve lost our way, that our society no longer holds anybody accountable for anything — government, personal, private,” she said. “It just feels like we’ve lost our way, and we’re trying to get back on track.”

One of the speakers at the Legislative Plaza event was Lonnie Spivak, who is running as a Republican against Cooper, but Spivak’s role at the rally was to announce that a group, Citizens of Faith, will file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health care law.

Spivak said the Constitution prevents the federal government from enacting laws that give religious preference to one group over another. And since the health care law allows bureaucrats to decide certain religious groups can opt out, that violates religious freedom, he said.

Ben Cunningham of Tennessee Tax Revolt handled MC duties for both the event at Municipal Auditorium and Legislative Plaza.

“This is just a continuation of the tea party momentum. It started very spontaneously and organically last year with Rick Santelli’s rant,” Cunningham said. “People just want to get involved.

“People try to define the tea party movement. It’s just motivated people who are concerned about trillion-dollar deficits, about Social Security being broke, Medicare being broke and all these other government institutions that we put our trust in. And Congress has financially run them in the ground. Now, they want to take over health care and make those very personal, intimate decisions to a great extent in Washington. And people are saying stop.”

The event at the Municipal Auditorium included speakers that included Cunningham, radio talk show hosts Phil Valentine, Steve Gill and Mike Slater as well as Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain.

The Tennessee Tea Party had been planning the event for months.

Stacie Burke of Franklin, president and co-founder of the Tennessee Tea Party, said the event involved a lot of work but was a team effort.

“We’re just hoping to get people more involved,” Burke said. “I think people are pretty awake, but we need people to stay involved all year long.”

When asked what she would like to see government do, Burke replied. “Get smaller. Leave us alone. Let us live our lives and stop interfering.”

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Press Releases

GOP: Dem’s Tax, Spend Agenda Makes Tax Day More Daunting

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party; April 15, 2010:

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney issued the following statement on tax day – the deadline for Americans to file their tax returns with the federal government:

“This is the time of year in which Americans take stock of exactly how much of their hard-earned money is taken from them. This tax day is particularly daunting because taxpayers know they are footing the bill for the trillions of dollars in big-government policies Washington Democrats have rammed through Congress over the last year.

“Here in Tennessee, Democrats are proving that the only solutions they have for our state’s economic challenges are more tax hikes. Gov. Bredesen has already proposed $50 million in new taxes in his budget and just today it was reported he wants to increase the so-called ‘luxury’ tax – a tax on items exceeding $3,200.

“The fact is Democrats just don’t get it. Our Republican candidates across the state understand that we need a smaller, more efficient government that is going to ease the tax burden on Tennesseans, not increase it. Voters are gravitating toward that message and that’s why Republicans in Tennessee are going to be so successful this November.”

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Press Releases

Senate OKs Sen. Barnes’ Bill Protecting Farmers From Unfair Taxation

Press Release from Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams, and Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, March 24, 2010:

Bill would protect farm land from massive estate tax hikes

NASHVILLE – The state Senate passed Wednesday 31-0 a bill by Sen. Tim Barnes (D-Adams) and Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) to protect farmers from unfair property valuation by sponsoring a bill to limit the effect of exorbitant appraisals.

“I’m pleased to say we’re closer to protecting our farmers from losing their family farms because of unfair federal estate taxes,” Barnes said. “Farmers deserve our assistance for all that they do to feed Tennessee families and support Tennessee’s economy.”

The bill (SB3191/HB3448)would make Tennessee farms’ “highest use value” available only for computing state rollback taxes – not for use in values for estate taxes, as the current law interprets. Many farmers are being taxed based on the state’s assessment of the land’s development value, even if the property is impossible to develop or has been restricted to farm use through a will.

Barnes and Pitts sponsored the bill after hearing from Montgomery County farmers who have seen their farm appraisal rates increase more than 700 percent after the most recent reappraisals.

The House version of the bill passed in a subcommittee Wednesday and will go to the House State and Local Committee.

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Press Releases

TN’s January State Tax Collections Down

State of Tennessee Press Release, Feb. 10, 2010

NASHVILLE – Tennessee sales tax collections continue to be a concern for the state’s general fund. Negative growth in sales tax collections continued in January, with overall January revenues coming in at $947.4 million, which is $16.1 million less than the state budgeted.

“January is the 20th consecutive month in which sales taxes have recorded negative growth.” Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz said. “January collections represent December holiday sales, which brought reports of positive growth at the national level, so it’s very disappointing that we didn’t have a similar experience in Tennessee.

“Despite the severe national recession, the state will continue to monitor spending in order to end the fiscal year with a balanced budget as required by the state’s constitution,” Goetz said.

On an accrual basis, January is the sixth month in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The general fund was under collected by $5.2 million and the four other funds were under collected by $10.9 million.

Sales tax collections were $20.4 million less than the estimate for January. The January growth rate was negative 1.86%. For six months revenues are under collected by $159.0 million. The year-to-date growth rate for six months was negative 5.72 %.

Franchise and excise taxes combined were $11.3 million above the budgeted estimate of $128.5 million. For six months revenues are over collected by $5.9 million.

Gasoline and motor fuel collections for January increased by 5.77 % but were $4.2 million below the budgeted estimate of $71.2 million. For six months revenues are under collected by $14.1 million.

Tobacco tax collections were $451,000 above the budgeted estimate of $21.9 million, and for six months they are $4.3 million over the budgeted estimate.

Inheritance and estate taxes were over collected by $1.8 million for the month.

All other taxes were under collected by a net of $5.1 million.

Year-to-date collections for six months were $185.1 million less than the budgeted estimate. The general fund was under collected by $152.3 million and the four other funds were under collected by $32.8 million.

The budgeted revenue estimates for 2009-2010 are based on the State Funding Board’s consensus recommendation adopted by the first session of the 106th General Assembly in May of 2009, and are available on the state’s Web site at http//www.tn.gov/finance/bud/budget.html.

The State Funding Board met again on December 18, 2009 and adopted revised revenue ranges for 2009-2010. The revised ranges reflect growth rates ranging from -1.50 % to -0.25 % in total taxes, and -2.35 % to – 0.85% in general fund taxes.

Based on the funding board’s consensus recommendation, the official budgeted estimates for 2009-2010 were revised in late December. The revised estimates are reflected on pages A-70 and A-72 in the 2010-2011 Budget Document. The revised estimates assume an under collection in total taxes in the amount of $161.3 million, and an under collection of $153.2 million in the general fund.

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Press Releases

TFT: ‘Tax Cuts, Not Service Cuts’ in a Recession

Press Release from Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, Feb. 1, 2010:

“It’s time for the General Assembly to enact a plan that gives tax cuts, not service cuts, that will help end the recession and help every Tennessee family balance their family budget,” said John G. Stewart, state chair of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, an advocacy group working for tax modernization in Tennessee.

“Governor Bredesen proposes service cuts and personnel cuts in the middle of the worst economic crisis in a generation, steps that can only slow down or even derail economic recovery in Tennessee. He’s proposing to tap the rainy day fund with no plan to replenish it in the future. This makes no sense at all. “

“He should be looking to put more money in the pockets of Tennesseans, helping businesses increase profits, and keeping experienced and valuable state employees, teachers, and public safety officers on the payroll rather than dumping them on to unemployment lines,” said Stewart

Stewart urged the General Assembly to pass “The Tax Cut and Jobs Creation Act,” (SB3235/HB3597), sponsored by Sen. Reginald Tate and Rep. Johnnie Turner. As filed, this bill provides for the following:

  • Eliminates the state portion of the sales tax on food
  • Cuts the state share of the sales tax on other goods to a 5% rate
  • Cuts the business franchise tax by more than half
  • Eliminates the Hall income tax
  • Establishes a tax on personal income at a flat 5.5% rate with a $20,000 exemption for individuals, $30,000 exemption for heads of households, and $40,000 exemption for joint filers plus $2,500 deduction for each dependent

“The bottom line is that approximately 70% of Tennesseans would have more money in their pockets than they have now, businesses would receive a well-deserved tax break when they most need it, and the state would have an additional $200 million -$400 million to apply to the revenue shortfall. This means saving essential jobs and avoiding recession-enhancing cutbacks in public services in the midst of a recession and providing a way to replenish the rainy day fund later,” Stewart said.

Additional details of this legislation and the similar SB3236/HB3596, along with an explanation of other tax modernization legislation supported by TFT, are in the attached fact sheet.

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Press Releases

State: Tax Collections Down Again

State of Tennessee Press Release, Dec. 14, 2009:

NASHVILLE – State tax collections fell below budgeted estimates in November, for the fourth consecutive month of the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2009. Finance & Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz today announced that state revenue collections for November were $708.2 million, which is 0.52% below November 2008 collections. November collections reflect consumer spending in October.

“November is the 18th consecutive month in which sales tax collections have experienced negative growth,” Goetz said. “If there’s a bright spot, it’s worth noting that the growth rate for sales tax collections in November, while still negative, fared slightly better than the month before, when it was negative 7.8 percent.”

“It’s important to remember we won’t see how after-Thanksgiving retail sales performed until this time next month, when we’ve collected revenues for November spending.”

On an accrual basis, November is the fourth month in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

November collections were $13.5 million less than the budgeted estimate. The general fund was under collected by $8.1 million and the four other funds were under collected by $5.4 million.

Sales tax collections were $21.2 million less than the estimate for November. The November growth rate was negative 4.45%. Year-to-date the growth rate is negative 7.52%.

Franchise and excise combined collections for November were $42.3 million, which is $11.6 million above the budgeted estimate of $30.7 million.

Gasoline and motor fuel collections were $5.3 million less than the budgeted estimate of $72.5 million.

Tobacco tax collections for the month were over collected by $4.3, with November collections at $27.8 million.

Inheritance and Estate taxes were under collected by $3.7 million for the month.

All other taxes were over collected by a net of $600,000.

Year-to date collections for four months were $114.8 million less than the budgeted estimate. The general fund was under collected by $96.3 million and the four other funds were under collected by $18.5 million.

The budgeted revenue estimates for 2009-2010 are based on the State Funding Board’s consensus recommendation adopted by the first session of the 106th General Assembly in May of 2009, and are available on the state’s Web site.

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News Tax and Budget

House Lawmakers to Discuss Transportation Funding

Tennessee Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely is scheduled to talk agency budget issues with a legislative committee study group this afternoon.

About $899 million of the roughly 1.8 billion proposed transportation department budget derives from state funds, $844 million from the federal government, and $37.8 million comes from other sources, Nicely said during Gov. Phil Bredesen’s budget hearings last month.

Tennessee state transportation funding is gleaned primarily from motor vehicle registration fees, the 21.4 cent gas-tax and the 18.4 cent tax on diesel.

“Our overall budget is showing a decrease of just over $7 million from the 09-10 budget,” Nicely said.

Nicely said the department is planning to reduce administrative costs by eliminating 200 vacant positions. He said 80 other positions were eliminated through employee buyouts.