Lawsuit contends state wrongfully withholding info on ‘Revenue Modernization Act’

A Nashville tax lawyer Wednesday filed a lawsuit contending that state officials have violated Tennessee’s Open Records Act by refusing to provide detailed information used to develop Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed “Revenue Modernization Act,” according to the Chattanooga TFP.

In his complaint, attorney Brett Carter is asking a Davidson County Chancery Court to compel the state to disclose withheld records immediately. Both the House and Senate Finance committees are poised to consider the bill next week. (Note: It’s HB644.) The suit says the refusal and the bureaucratic and legal run-around Martin has gotten constitute a “willful violation of the Open Records Act.”

Moreover, Carter says, Martin has mentioned a “study” was done on the business tax issue that undergirds the administration’s changes in state law.

“[W]thout providing such support” including the study, the complaint says, “the representations of the department do not provide a sufficient basis for the General Assembly to evaluate and conclude whether modifications to the Tennessee tax code are necessary or appropriate.”

Carter, co-chair of the state and local tax practice group at the Bradley Arant Boult Cummings law firm, says in the action that he is seeking to delve into a legislative proposal that would increase state revenues from business taxes by more than $60 million over the next two fiscal years.

That’s based on a legislative fiscal note. The administration has only said publicly it would generate $14 million in new revenue for the upcoming 2015-2016 tax year starting July 1.

Asked for comment, Lola Potter, a Martin spokeswoman, told the Times Free Press that “due to pending litigation, it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment at this time.”