The Tennessee Journal, in its latest update on legislative races, says there is a “high probability” that Republicans will gain two-thirds “super majorities” in both the House and Senate. The subscription publication elaborates a bit thusly: The GOP should pick up three to six seats in the Senate. In the House, Republicans stand to gain up to seven seats with the sure victories of Mike Carter in District 29, Jeremy Durham in 65, and Roger Kane in 89 and the likely victories of Dawn White in 37, William Lamberth in 44, Debra Moody in 81, and Billy Spivey in 92.
They could make it eight by winning the toss-up race in District 13, and they may also have a chance in one to three of the “leaning Democratic” contests. Democrats have shots against four GOP incumbents in “toss-up” races and can only hope to limit the damage. Given their plight after redistricting, if Democrats hold Republicans below 70 they can claim a moral victory.
Three seats are listed by the Journal, edited by Ed Cromer, as tossups: District 20, where Republican Steve Dickerson faces Democrat Phillip North in a seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Joe Haynes; District 20, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Barnes faces Republican Mark Green; and District 24, where Republican John Stevens faces Democrat Brad Thompson for the seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Roy Herron.
Five seats are listed as tossups in the House lineup: District 5, where Republican Rep. David Hawk is challenged by Democrat Eddie Yokley; District 13, where Republican Gary Loe faces Democrat Gloria Johnson (and independent Nick Cazana); District 33, where Republican Rep. John Ragan faces Democrat Jim Hackworth; District 60, where Republican Rep. Jim Gotto faces Democrat Darren Jernigan; and District 76, where Republican Rep. Andy Holt faces Democrat Mark Maddox.
The Tennessee Journal has put out its first list rating 2012 Republican-versus-Democratic races for the state House and Senate and, no surprise, it looks grim for Democrats.
In the Senate, there are 11 incumbent Republicans who aren’t up for reelection this year and six of those who are up have no Democratic opponent. Ergo, the GOP is already assured of holding the 17 seats needed for a majority for the 108th General Assembly, which will convene in January. The question is whether they can go from the current 20 Republican seats to 22, which would be the two-thirds majority needed to make Democrats pretty much irrelevant.
The subscription-only Journal has three Senate seats rated as partisan toss-up contests – District 20, now held by Democratic Sen. Joe Haynes of Nashville; District 24, now held by Democratic Sen. Roy Herron of Dresden; and District 28, the new open seat in Southern Middle Tennessee. Herron and Haynes are both retiring. District 28 is, in effect, the seat moved from Shelby County by redistricting – a shift that left Democratic Sens. Jim Kyle and Beverly Marrero to run against one another in the primary.
The next most competitive category is “leaning.”
District 10, now held by retiring Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga, is rated as “leaning Republican.” District 16, now held by retiring Democratic Sen. Eric Stewart of Belvidere, and District 22, held by Democratic Sen. Tim Barnes of Clarksville, are rated as “leaning Democratic.”
Thus, Democrats would have to sweep all six of the most competitive races just to maintain their status quo of 13 seats (versus 20 for Republicans now).
In the House, Journal Editor Ed Cromer has nine “toss-up” races.
They are seats now held by Republican Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville (District 5), Democratic Rep. Harry Tindell of Knoxville (who is retiring in District 13), Republican Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge (District 33), Republican Rep. David Alexander of Winchester (District 39), Democratic Rep. Gary Moore of Nashville (also retiring, District 50), Republican Rep. Jim Gotto of Nashville (District 60), Republican Rep. Tim Wirgau of Paris (District 75), Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden (District 76) and the new, open-seat District 92, which covers all of Marshall County and parts of Lincoln, Franklin and Marion counties.
There’s one “leaning Democrat” seat (open seat District 53 in Nashville) and seven “leaning Republican.” Four of the latter are held by incumbent Republicans – Reps. Julia Hurley of Lenoir City, Kelly Keisling of Byrdstown, Shelia Butt of Columbia, Bill Sanderson of Kenton.
From the Journal story: The Tennessee Journal’s initial breakdown shows 25 (House) seats in the safe, probable, or leaning Democratic categories. Democrats would have to win all nine toss-up races simply to get back to where they started — at 34 seats — and this is unlikely. Republicans need only a net gain of two seats to have a two-thirds majority.
In a March 24 editorial, the Wall Street Journal declared Gov. Bill Haslam “the main obstacle to reform” of Tennessee’s inheritance tax. Now Haslam has replied with a letter to the editor of the publication that appears under the headline, “I’m Not the Problem on Death Tax Reform.” The governor has, of course, now embraced the idea of complete repeal of Tennessee’s inheritance tax.
Here’s an excerpt from the editorial: A November 2011 study of tax return data by economists Arthur Laffer and Wayne Winegarden shows how people avoid state death taxes. The study compared Florida and Tennessee high-income returns. Both states have no income tax, but Tennessee is one of only two states that imposes an estate and a gift tax. (Connecticut is the other.)
The authors point out that this year there is a $5 million exemption on the federal estate tax and gift tax (a once-in-a-lifetime wealth transfer for the living), but in Tennessee the exemption is a meager $13,000 for estates and gifts. With a gift and death-tax rate that reaches 9.5%, a Tennessean with a $5 million estate would pay $462,000 more estate tax than someone living in the 29 states with no such tax, such as Florida. Tennessee is a very expensive state to die in.
The Tennessee tax really does cause the rich to flee. The authors found that in 2010 Florida had nearly twice as many federal tax returns with taxable estates (per 100,000 population) as did Tennessee. The average estate is also larger in Florida–$7.4 million versus $4.4 million in Tennessee.
Here’s the kicker: Because wealthy people avoiding the estate tax take their businesses and spending with them, the study concludes that “had Tennessee eliminated its gift and estate tax 10 years ago, Tennessee’s economy would have been over 14% larger in 2010.” They also find the estate tax cost Tennessee state and local governments over $7 billion in tax collections. Could there be a more self-defeating tax?
The main obstacle to reform in Nashville is GOP Governor Bill Haslam, who earlier this year acknowledged damage from the tax, saying “There’s a whole lot of people who used to live in Tennessee who don’t anymore because it’s cheaper to die in Florida.” But he now says the state needs the revenues, however imaginary they might be. This mistaken logic is also being used to block repeal in Nebraska.
Here’s the Haslam letter: Regarding your editorial “Death Tax Defying” (March 24): In early January I proposed legislation to raise the exemption level on Tennessee’s estate tax from the current rate of $1 million to the federal exemption level of $5 million during my time in office. (Note: Actually, the bill did not originally raise the exemption level to $5 million, though the governor declared that as a goal.)
Just last week, I cemented that proposal by recommending doing so in the next three years and worked with House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent to completely repeal the tax in year four.
This is a thoughtful and realistic approach to eliminate a tax that chases capital out of our state as Tennessee slowly recovers from the economic downturn that we continue to carefully manage our way through.
Tennessee is a low-tax state, and I’m working with the General Assembly to lower taxes even further.
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — Journal Inc., which publishes the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, has acquired a group of weekly community newspapers in the suburban Memphis, Tenn., area.
The company reports (http://bit.ly/t4NelJ) that details of the transaction were not disclosed.
Clay Foster, CEO of Journal Inc., says the company acquired the Bartlett Express, Millington Star, Collierville Independent, Shelby Sun Times, Oakland News and the Classified Advantage. Foster says the company also will produce The BlueJacket for the Millington Naval Base.
Foster says Journal Inc. will now publish 20 publications in Mississippi and Tennessee