Tag Archives: Tennessee

TN Still Leads Nation in Sales Tax Rate

News release from Tax Foundation:
Washington, D.C, August 28, 2013—Consumers in Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Washington, and Oklahoma are shouldering heavier combined state and average local sales tax rates than consumers in other states, according to a new study by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. Additionally, the report indicates that Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have the lowest combined rates, and details the changes Virginia, Arkansas, Arizona, Kansas, and the District of Columbia have made to their sales taxes in 2013.

“Sales taxes are one of the most easily understood taxes because every time a consumer makes a purchase, they can see the rate on the receipt” says Tax Foundation economist Scott Drenkard. “Our comprehensive analysis addresses the fact that 38 states allow local governments to levy sales taxes within their jurisdiction. These local rates, when combined with the statewide rates, can result in substantially larger tax bites.”

Five states do not have a statewide sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. Of these, Alaska and Montana allow localities to charge local sales taxes.

The five states with the highest average combined rates are Tennessee (9.44 percent), Arkansas (9.18 percent), Louisiana (8.89 percent), Washington (8.87 percent), and Oklahoma (8.72 percent). The five states with the lowest average combined rates are Alaska (1.69 percent), Hawaii (4.35 percent), Maine (5 percent), and Wisconsin (5.43 percent), Wyoming (5.50 percent).

The new report also details the significant changes that have taken place in states’ treatments of sales taxes in 2013. As a result of new transportation legislation, Virginia’s statewide sales tax rate increased on July 1, 2013 from 5 percent to 5.3 percent; localities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads charge a 6 percent combined rate. Also effective July 1, 2013, Arkansas raised its state sales tax rate from 6 percent to 6.5 percent.

Not all states are increasing their rates, however. Arizona cut its rate from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent as a temporary sales tax increase expired, and Kansas moderately cut its statewide sales tax rate from 6.3 percent to 6.15 percent. The District of Columbia is scheduled to lower its sales tax from 6 percent to 5.75 percent on October 1, 2013.

“Of course, sales taxes are just one part of an overall tax structure and should be considered in context,” adds Drenkard. “For example, Washington State has high sales taxes but no income tax; Oregon has no sales tax but high income taxes. While many factors influence business location and investment decisions, sales taxes are something within policymakers’ control that can have immediate impacts.”

Tax Foundation Fiscal Fact No. 392, “State and Local Sales Tax Rates Midyear 2013,” by Scott Drenkard is available online….

The Tax Foundation is a nonpartisan research organization that has monitored fiscal policy at the federal, state, and local levels since 1937.

Feds to cover AP testing fee for low-income students

News release from U.S. Department of Education:
The U.S. Department of Education today announced the award of more than $28.8 million in grants to 42 states to cover a portion of the fees charged to low-income students for taking advanced placement (AP) tests.

(Note: Tennessee is among them, estimated to receive $344,613 in subsidies.)

Based on the anticipated number of test-takers and other factors, the grants under the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program are expected to be sufficient to pay all but $10 of the cost of each advanced placement exam taken by low-income students. States may opt to require students to pay a portion of the costs.

“This Administration has taken unprecedented steps to boost college- and career readiness for our young people, especially first-generation college goers,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “Participation in Advanced Placement courses gives these students a jump start in college by challenging them to develop stronger study and critical-thinking skills. These grants will eliminate some financial roadblocks and enable more minority students to gain access to rigorous AP courses, which will help them succeed in today’s knowledge economy.”
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Excerpts and links to some recent TN political commentary

Nashville Should Secede from TN?
From a column by J.R. Lind:
After decades of benign neglect from state government, Davidson County has suddenly become the legislature’s petri dish, a regular experiment in how much onerous meddling a local government can take from the state.

…With an ever-redder legislature and a staunchly cerulean Metro Council, the two bodies are bound to butt heads again and again over the best way to operate the state’s capital city.

It will be frustrating for both and exhausting for the rest of us — so why not just cut the ties. This doesn’t have to be contentious or violent; it can be a velvet divorce.

Carving out an enclave of deeply Democratic Nashville will necessarily increase the power of the Republicans statewide. Nobody outside of Memphis will miss the Tennessee Democratic Party — not that the TNDP has been accomplishing much anyway — and all those Democrats can find new gigs in Nashville’s single-party state, giving them an opportunity to have a hand in governance, which they’ve (hopefully) not forgotten how to do.

There are some logistical concerns, of course. Tennessee would have to find a new capital. Hohenwald is lovely, and they are already used to having a bunch of old elephants stomping around. Gov. Haslam will be rid of the problem of what to do with all the state buildings; he can just quitclaim them to Nashville instead of to the real estate company he invests in. Nashville wouldn’t have to form its own legislature, though, because the city council is already bigger than the state senate.
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Rule Freeze Followed by Thaw, Repeals and New Legislative Scrutiny

NASHVILLE — Since beginning his term as governor by ordering a 45-day freeze on implementation of any new state government rules and facing questions about one frozen proposal, Gov. Bill Haslam has used less direct means of impacting the bureaucratic regulatory process.

In the state Legislature, which under state law must give its approval to all new rules, an effort is afoot among members of the Republican supermajority to end the practice of rubber-stamping the plans promulgated by state departments, boards and commissions, says Sen. Mike Bell, who chairs a committee reviewing all rules.

Tennessee’s bureaucracy has continued to generate scores of new rules since Haslam’s freeze ended, but there have been 33 rules repealed — recent examples include the Department of Agriculture’s elimination of requirements that makers of milk and ice cream keep extensive records of the prices they charge and a whole system for certifying tomato, broccoli, cabbage and pepper plants.

Also eliminated — with approval of a legislative committee last week — were rules dealing with strawberry plants, Irish potatoes and a quarantine on bringing camellia flowers into Tennessee from some areas.

Full story HERE.

 

Kyle More Interested in Running for Judge Than for Governor

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle joined his House counterpart Wednesday in declaring disinterest in running for governor, even though he waged a brief campaign for the office in 2010.
“I haven’t thought about it,” said Kyle, D-Memphis, adding that he had hoped House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley would run. As for himself, Kyle said he is not really interested, though stopping short of absolutely ruling it out.
“I’ve thought more about ‘do I want to leave the Senate and become a judge or do I want to stay in the Senate.’ That is the decision I’ve got to make between now and the end of the year,” he said. “That’s what I’ve focused all of my energy on.”
Fitzhugh, who has toyed with the idea of running for governor since December, said earlier this week that he has decided to instead seek re-election to his West Tennessee House seat and another term as head of House Democrats.
Kyle ran briefly for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2012, then withdrew — along with three other Democrats who initially declared themselves candidates, including the party’s current chairman, former state Sen. Roy Herron. Dresden businessman Mike McWherter won the nomination, then lost to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

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TN Veterans Can Register for Burial Online

News release from state Department of Veterans Affairs:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder announced an innovative new online pre-registration form which will allow veterans and their families to be pre-approved for burial in the state veterans cemeteries.
Traditionally, funeral directors contact the nearest state veterans cemetery when they receive a request to bury the remains of a veteran or dependent who previously expressed interest in burial at one of the four locations. In many cases, family members are unable to locate the veteran’s discharge papers which must be used to determine eligibility. The process to request and receive the appropriate discharge papers as well as determine eligibility can take several days or weeks.
“Our goal is to do all we can to assist and support veterans and their families,” Haslam said. “This online resource is a proactive and efficient way to offer them assistance before they face a crisis situation when delays can add to the trauma of loss.”

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Finney Finds TN Ties in Trip to England

State Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, took the opportunity to visit with state jobs officials while in England to participate in a conference for political and business leaders at Queens College in London, reports the Jackson Sun.
While there, Finney paid a visit to Regents University in London, a four-year institution with a partnership with the University of Memphis Finney met with Dr. Supti Sarkar and Colm Reilly, of PA Consulting Group, Tennessee’s London-based affiliate designated to help identify, engage and recruit potential economic development projects from throughout the United Kingdom.
“The people I met with are Tennessee’s point people,” Finney said. “I was not meeting with an owner of a company. (Sarkar and Reilly) are located in London. My visit to London was not a ‘trade mission’ in the sense that I was pitching to those companies.”
Finney said the meeting helped him understand what they are dealing with and what they need in their recruitment efforts as well as to let them know that the legislature is a partner.
Finney said the three-day trip was very productive and that it was made possible through a grant and not paid for at taxpayer expense

Tea Party Still Looking for an Alexander Challenger

Tea party groups plan to conduct “auditions” for prospective 2014 challengers to Sen. Lamar Alexander during August and September, reports Andy Sher as part of an overview story on the incumbent Republican’s re-election campaign.
Of course, all things considered, the chances look very good for Alexander’s reelection.
He’s got some $3 million in cash on hand. He’s raising more. And he’s already running ads.
Alexander last week said he thinks things are going well.
“The last public surveys I’ve seen … showed I had a slightly higher approval rating from people aligned with the tea party than I did even with the Republicans,” Alexander said.
He cited a May poll by Vanderbilt University showing him with a 53 percent general job approval rating, with 60 percent support from Republicans and 62 percent from self-identified tea partiers.
The overall poll had a 4 percent margin of error. The margin of error was higher in sub categories.
“I’m just going to do the best I can as a senator and respect the right of everybody else to believe whatever they want,” Alexander said.
He touted the “hundreds of conservative Middle Tennessee Republicans” who attended his rally Saturday.

TN GOP’s ‘Red to the Roots’ Program Targets Local Offices

With state-level elective offices firmly in its control, the state Republican Party is now ready to move on to local-level offices with a new “Red to the Roots” program, says Tennessee Republican Chairman Chris Devaney.
The idea is to encourage county Republican parties to designate nominees for city and county elective offices where they can. Currently, most cities and counties have nonpartisan elections for local office, though state law generally allows county parties to designate party nominees if they wish — exceptions including cases in which a city or county charter specifies bipartisan elections.
“We’ve had a lot of success with our state-level candidates,” Devaney said, referring to the GOP supermajority in the Legislature and Republicans holding the governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and seven of nine U.S. House seats. “Now, we’re ready to look at the local offices — county mayors, sheriffs and maybe a few judgeships.”
“These are places where Democrats still have a hold,” he said. “It’s their bench” for candidates who could in the future seek a state-level office. With local-level partisan campaigns he said, “We can build our bench.”

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Fitch Ratings: TN Has Lowest State Debt in the Nation

News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:
(July 22, 2013, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and Senate Finance Chairman Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced that Fitch Ratings officially declared Tennessee the lowest indebted state in the union. Fitch Ratings issued the finding in a special report on state pensions last week. The ranking is based on Tennessee’s net tax-supported debt and unfunded pension obligations as a percentage of personal income.
“This news proves once again that Tennessee can outperform any state in the union — even in the Obama economy,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey.  “While the federal government and other states are taxing, spending and leaving their grandchildren the bill, Tennessee continues to balance budgets and pay what we owe. I’m proud of our legislature, our Governor and our constitutional officers for their commitment to a lean and efficient state government that provides necessary services at minimal cost to taxpayers. It is that commitment that continues to attract businesses and families to our great state.”
Senate Finance Chairman Randy McNally concurred in celebrating the news.
“I’m grateful to Fitch Ratings for recognizing Tennessee’s commitment to fiscal discipline,” said Sen. McNally. “We work hard as a state government to live within our means and pay our debts promptly. I look forward every day to participating in Tennessee’s economic success story.”
Fitch Ratings State Pension Update special report published July 16, 2013 revealed that the median level for states’ combined net tax-supported debt plus unfunded pension liabilities measures 7.0 percent of 2012 personal income. Tennessee’s was lowest at 1.8 percent. The nation’s highest percentage was Illinois at 24.8 percent.
Fitch Ratings is a leading global rating agency which provides the world’s credit markets with independent credit opinions.  Fitch, together with Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, are the three nationally recognized statistical rating organizations designated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.