A scaled-down version of the Farm Bill passed the US House Thursday, and Tennessee’s Congressional delegation voted along strict party lines today–with one exception. So reports WPLN.
Knoxville Representative John Duncan is one of only 12 Republicans voting no.
The bill strips out any language governing food stamps, and that’s a big reason why Democrats don’t like it.
Duncan takes issue with a measure that would expand crop insurance for farmers.
“You start a small business you have to pay 100% of your insurance, and then on top of that you
From a Wasnington Post blog, here’s a list: The dozen GOP lawmakers who bucked the party were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Paul Cook (Calif.), Ron DeSantis (Fla.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Matt Salmon (Ariz.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.).
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper says a tax break for the solar industry violates the state constitution.
Cooper told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/REhVWm ) that the issue with the tax break is that it favors certain taxpayers. He cited a provision of the constitution that prohibits lawmakers from passing legislation that allows one group of taxpayers to opt out of paying property taxes.
The newspaper reports that Cooper’s announcement on Friday jeopardizes the credit’s future viability and is likely to reinvigorate efforts to roll back the measure and replace it.
Gov. Phil Bredesen pushed the credit and two others through the legislature as his administration came to an end, actions that raised questioned weeks later when Bredesen and two aides started a solar energy company. The other credits haven’t been challenged.
— Note: The full AG opinion is HERE.
A top state legislator in the solar tax debate tells the Nashville Business Journal that he’s awaiting an attorney general’s opinion on the matter, but acknowledged that Silicon Ranch’s application for state tax breaks “very well could” whet Republicans’ appetite for repeal. On Thursday, the Nashville Business Journal reported that the company — run by top aides to former Gov. Phil Bredesen who helped pass the tax break — had applied for it in relation to eight projects.
State Sen. Randy McNally, the Oak Ridge Republican who last spring carried a bill to change the tax arrangement, said today the bill could come back to an invigorated debate in the 2013 legislative session. He made clear that his primary interest is whether Attorney General Bob Cooper will reaffirm a 1986 opinion that the state’s use of “pollution control” for taxation issues was unconstitutional.
“I think we’ll continue to look at that, and if it does come back that it’s constitutionally suspect or unconstitutional, consider bringing the legislation again to try and correct the problems,” he said.
In addition to the constitutional issues — raised by the office of Comptroller Justin Wilson — Republicans last year were eager to repeal the tax break. Some, including McNally, questioned whether solar investments deserved the tax break, and there was also suspicion that Matt Kisber, Bredesen’s economic development commissioner, and Reagan Farr, his revenue commissioner, had pushed the original tax break to later take advantage of it. They deny doing so, saying they were seeking to encourage an industry they believed key for the state.
As an auctioneer and a cattleman, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is familiar with Tennessee’s Greenbelt Law and believes the property tax break is working as it should in the “overwhelming majority” of cases — he suspects at least 90 percent.
At the same time, he said, “I’m sure there are incidences across the state where there are unintended consequences.”
Although many legislators see no problem with the law, even praise it, Ramsey, as presiding officer of the state Senate, is willing to consider “tweaking” it to prevent abuses.
For example, the law now requires that a property produce $1,500 in gross “agricultural income” annually to qualify for greenbelt status, a figure unchanged for 20 years. Research by the News Sentinel and The Commercial Appeal of Memphis for a recent series of articles also indicates the provision is difficult to enforce.
“Maybe that’s too low,” said Ramsey of the $1,500 threshold in an interview. “We could look at raising that or, even better, make it so the local governments may police it more.”
Silicon Ranch — the company with ties to former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration — has applied for a solar tax break that is sure to fan the flames of debate over the economic development incentive’s future, reports the Nashville Business Journal.
The company’s founders include Bredesen and major economic development players from his administration, Matt Kisber and Reagan Farr. They spearheaded the passage of the tax break in 2010 aimed at encouraging the fledgling solar industry.
In the 2012 Tennessee General Assembly, some Republicans had planned to alter the tax arrangement in part because they were suspicious after those who put it in place started a solar company. Since then, Silicon Ranch has made eight applications for green energy certification, a stamp necessary to receive the tax break, according to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation records.
…Kisber and Farr said the company had not planned previously to apply for the tax credit — or any other incentive they had advocated — unless a new legislature and administration affirmed the legitimacy of a Bredesen-era policy. Farr, who served as Bredesen’s revenue commissioner, said the Republicans’ ultimate decision not to alter the policy “reaffirmed” it and led the company to consider applying.
Lifted from a Tennessean story on solar energy tax credits and their impact in Tennessee, which has been rated as having “the third-fastest-growing clean energy economy” in the nation: Tennessee now gives a massive property-tax break to solar-power facilities by allowing them to be assessed at their salvage value — defined as no more than one-half of 1 percent of their initial investment costs. But companion bills filed by several Republican legislators in the General Assembly earlier this year would eliminate that break so that solar installations would be assessed and taxed based on their real value, just like other business and residential property.
“That has already pretty much shut down any new solar companies coming to Tennessee,” said Ben Macias, vice president of Shoals Technologies Group in Portland, a manufacturer of components for solar systems that has about 500 workers.
“A lot of solar-power manufacturers are coming to the Southeast, but they are on hold as far as relocating in Tennessee is concerned because of the tax question in the legislature,” he said.
For a 50-kilowatt solar system installed at a business, for instance, the change could raise the property tax $1,500 a year, said Billy Gibson, vice president for engineering and development at Integrated Solar, another Nashville company that installs home and business systems.
Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell broke her ankle earlier today but nonetheless plans to preside over this evening’s House floor session, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Kara Owen, spokeswoman for the speaker, said Harwell injured her ankle while walking her dog in the Nashville neighborhood where the speaker lives. The speaker was attempting to move her dog out of the roadway when she twisted her ankle, Owen said.
Thinking she had simply sprained her ankle, Harwell went to her office in the Legislative Plaza, where she later saw a nurse who advised she go see a doctor. The speaker did and turned out her ankle was broken, Owen said.
The spokeswoman said she did not have further information about the break except that it is “very, very painful.”
In preparation for this afternoon’s session, expected to last hours, aides are providing a high chair for the speaker, who also has an air cast.
“She’s strong,” another aide observed.
The state comptroller’s office has decided against continuing to push for action this year on legsilation that would have repealed a property tax break granted the solar industry during former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s tenure.
Here’s a statement from Deputy Comptroller Jason Mumpower: “In the interests of producing the best possible solution to a complex issue, a bill (HB3526/SB3296) that would affect property assessments for solar businesses is being postponed,” said Jason Mumpower, chief of staff in the state Comptroller’s office. “While there has been a good discussion during this session about how solar businesses should be assessed, it is not advisable to seek a quick resolution of the concerns that have been raised during the session’s waning days.
“In fact, legislation enacted in haste through the technical corrections bill two years ago created the problem we now have, which is that the law currently requires solar businesses to be assessed at a rate deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General. It is our belief that without corrective action, the law will be challenged and solar businesses could end up being assessed at 100 percent of their value, as opposed to the much reduced percentage of value we suggest to provide an incentive to the solar industry. We want to work with the industry over the summer in hopes of achieving the broadest consensus we can about the best way to move forward.”
And here’s a statement from the Senate Democratic Caucus on the move: “The decision by the Comptroller’s office to table a massive 6,000 percent tax increase on the solar industry is a prudent one. Small business owners and clean energy investors have made clear cases for how such an increase would cripple our fastest growing jobs sector.
“An open study committee is the best way to continue the conversation with those who would be most affected. As the Comptroller’s office is properly concerned about revenue consistency among clean energy sectors, I hope they’ll consider cutting other taxes instead of raising taxes on small businesses.”
The state comptroller’s office says a current tax arrangement on solar energy is unconstitutional, upping the pressure on legislators to cast the policy aside as a fight over its purpose escalates, reports the Nashville Business Journal. A bill in the Tennessee General Assembly would change the tax treatment of solar companies, and various segments of the industry have spoken up, decrying it as a massive tax increase in place of an incentive they’d been anticipating.
Jason Mumpower, executive assistant to state Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson, today cited a 1986 attorney general opinion, saying that a justification used for the treatment of solar installations is not constitutional.
He argued the current statute — passed in 2010 under the administration of Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat — is open to challenge, and that therefore the comptroller is making tax law sound and preserving some incentive for solar companies.
“What we’re looking to do is correct a technical matter in the tax code,” Mumpower said. “What we’re doing is trying to help them.”
….Both McNally and Mumpower stopped short of accusing the Bredesen administration of passing a law to benefit a future business venture. But they said there could be the appearance of a conflict, with Farr pushing the law and then being part of the future company.
Farr called it “politics by a very political comptroller” for Republicans to be pushing the law change and making such suggestions. He said Silicon Ranch does not plan to apply for the tax benefit or other Bredesen initiatives. The company may consider future programs passed or reapproved by the legislature, based on circumstances at that time, he said.
Mumpower said the comptroller’s office is not seeking political gain against Farr or Democrats supportive of solar. Asked why the comptroller’s office doesn’t denounce suggestions about Farr, Mumpower said the comptroller’s motivation is only to fix the law, not engage in politics.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Storm shelters may qualify for state sales tax savings under recently passed legislation.
The Tennessee Department of Revenue says Tennessee taxpayers who purchase qualifying building supplies to construct storm shelters between July 1 and Dec. 31 can save up to $2,500 on sales tax paid on certain construction supplies.
Individuals can file a claim for refunds for sales tax paid on these items. They also may claim a refund for tax paid by certain contractors.
Items eligible for a refund include Sheetrock, insulation, flooring, construction tools, paint materials, hardware, brick, concrete block, lumber and other building materials.