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Tona Monroe to speak at Bill of Rights Banquet on December 18th

Recipient of last year’s Eagle Award, then Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, will be the speaker at the 4th annual Truth Radio Bill of Rights Banquet on Tuesday December 18th.  The topic of the speech will be Proof of Authority and the Proper Role of Government: The Foundation of a Constitutional Republic.

A dinner will be held at 7 PM at RJ’s Courtyard located at 3749 Airport Hwy, Louisville, Tennessee 37777.  Book your meal by calling WBCR at 984-1470. 

2017 Bill of Rights Banquet
Eagle Award Recipients Tona Monroe, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Scott Williams 

Federal Judge: Tennessee can’t revoke driver’s licenses from people who can’t pay court costs

Glad to see this.  This law should be repealed.  It was/is all about the $$$ money, as is the drivers license.  This case talks about a right to drive.  It’s worth reading this law review article on the right to drive.

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2018/07/03/federal-court-tennessee-law-revoking-drivers-licenses-unconstitutional/754596002/

TN Comptroller’s Office has been using same auditors for over a decade in Blount and Polk counties; Revolving door between auditors and local government finance directors

Some have been touting how wonderful Blount County government is because of receiving three “clean” audits in row.  That does sound good but as was recently pointed out here, audits don’t reflect assets well managed or monies well spent.

After discussion with a Polk County Commissioner, who shared with me that the state Comptroller’s Office has been using the same auditors for several years in Polk County, I reviewed Blount County’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) and found that the same thing has occurred with Blount County’s audits.

Utilizing the same auditors for more than a decade is unacceptable.  Familiarity between auditors and those being audited is not in the best interest of the taxpayers.  Relationships can develop and those being audited learn what specific auditors are looking for and possibly more importantly what the auditors aren’t looking for.

To address that matter, I (Tona Monroe) have filed a resolution requesting new auditors for Blount County’s fiscal year 2018 audit.  Audit reports for Blount County are available on the Comptroller’s website here.

A review of the audit reports from 2004 through 2017 shows that one auditor has participated in all 14 years of audits, another 13 out of 14 and another 9 out of 14 years.  The situation in Polk County is similar to Blount County.  2 of the auditors have participated in all of the audits for the past 13 years.

Furthermore, the state legislature passed a law making the job performance evaluations of Comptroller’s Office employees confidential.  The job performances of those tasked with looking out the taxpayers are secret.  You aren’t allowed to know the quality of work they are doing.  This open records exemption needs to be repealed.

Revolving door
Another problem that needs to be addressed is allowing Comptroller’s Office auditors to become local finance directors.  Former Blount County Finance Director Dave Bennett worked for the Comptroller’s Office before working for the county.  The same thing happened in Hamblen County with Joey Barnard.  It’s not in the best interest of the taxpaying citizens to allow someone to be in charge of keeping your local government’s books when they could be friends with the state’s auditors, because they’ve worked with them in past.  The positions of county finance directors and state auditors should not be a revolving door.

These issues involving auditors, finance directors are the Comptroller’s Office are ripe for reform to protect the people of Tennessee.  Instead the Tennessee General Assembly went the other way by adding more secrecy when it sealed the performance evaluations from public view. One of Blount County’s state lawmakers, Representative Bob Ramsey, was the House sponsor of the legislation.  Senator Ken Yager was the Senate sponsor.  These two are waterboys for the Comptroller’s Office.  It looks like we the people need to reform our state legislature by sending better lawmakers to Nashville.

Important questions you need to ask about the salaries of elected officials before voting in the local May 1st and state and federal August 2nd 2018 primary elections

State mandated minimum salaries and additional pay supplements for local elected officials vs what taxpayers are making

When you look at important economic indicators such as median household income and average annual income, Blount County taxpayers haven’t fared well in recent years.  When adjusted for inflation, 2014 numbers show that average pay in Blount County actually dropped and that household income averages a double digit drop.

The State of Tennessee mandates very generous salaries for elected officials that are 2, 3 and 4 times what the average Tennessee taxpayer is making.  I (Tona Monroe) have written the state legislature for a couple of years on this matter but this matter has largely fallen on deaf ears when it comes to taking action.  A few lawmakers have agreed with me that the mandated minimums are too high but none have taken action to provide reform.

You can view the state mandated minimum salaries for local elected officials here.
2018-2019  2017-2018   2016-2017  2015-2016  2014-2015  2013-2014
2012-2013   2010-2011  2009-2010  2008-2009  2007-2008  2006-2007

This figures show huge increases to the base pay for local elected officials being mandated by state law.  Despite being paid double and triple, and in the case of judges almost quadruple what the average taxpayer is making, 4 of these local elected officials are receiving pay supplements above the already large state mandated minimums.  Blount County taxpayers are paying $96,717 more than state minimum for the circuit court clerk, highway superintendent, sheriff and mayor.  It’s obvious these people don’t feel the same economic pain that many Blount Countians are feeling.

2 important primary elections will be held this year.  The local government primary election will be May 1, 2018 and the state and federal primary election will be held August 2, 2018.  All office holders elected in partisan elections are Republicans in Blount County.  There isn’t a single Democrat or independent in office in Blount County, excluding the school board which has nonpartisan elections.  Thus, it is highly likely that all upcoming offices, excluding the school board, will be decided in the primary elections.  If you wait to vote in November, you will miss your best opportunities to have an impact on who governs at the local and state levels.  There will be no county elections in November and only state and federal general elections occur in November.

The May 1 and August 2 primary elections provide opportunities for you to clean house of these state and local officials who refuse to hold the line on these outrageous salaries.  Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and myself have voted to cut the pay of these 4 elected officials down to the state minimum, which is already much higher than it should be.

Questions to ask before heading to the polls on May 1 and August 2:
1) Why have local elected officials refused to cut the pay of these officials to the state mandated minimums?
2) Why have the state legislators continued funding huge increases for elected officials?
3) Why did Jerome Moon try to lead the commission to believe that these pay supplements weren’t optional?

Please consider these questions before casting your votes in the May 1 and August 2 elections.

East Tennessee Index 2014 figures for median household income:

What does this measure?
Median household income, adjusted for inflation. Half of households earn below the median, and half are above.

Why is this important?
Median household income is a gauge of overall economic health of the region and the financial resources of households.

How is our region performing?
In 2010-14, median household income in the region was $45,100, slightly higher than the state ($44,600) but lower than the nation ($53,500). Among local counties, median household income was highest in Loudon ($50,600) and Knox ($47,500) and lowest in Union ($36,000) and Monroe ($37,200). The region, state, and nation all saw their median income fall by double digits from 2000 to 2010-14 (down 12% in the region, 14% in the state, and 10% in the nation). Median income fell much faster in the region from 2005-09 to 2010-14 than in the nation and state (16% decrease in the region compared to a 6% decrease for the state and the nation). Among the counties, median household incomes decreased most from 2000 to 2010-14 in Sevier, Monroe and Blount (all 14%). Union experienced the smallest rate of decline (7%), but still has the lowest median household income in the region.

Notes about the data
Figures are presented in 2014 dollars. The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The bureau combined five years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census.

ETIndex.org 2014 figures for average annual salary:

What does this measure?
The average annual salary in a region in a given year, adjusted for inflation.

Why is this important?
Salaries are a gauge of overall economic health and a measure of the degree to which employees are sharing in the prosperity of a community. They also indicate the vitality of a region and its ability to compete and attract workers.

How is our region performing?
In 2014, the region’s average salary was $43,000, below the average for the state ($45,200) and the nation ($51,400). Since 2000, the region’s average salary increased by 6%, on par with growth nationally and but below statewide (7%). Roane County’s average annual pay grew by 26% over the same time period, more than any other county, while average salary fell in Blount and Sevier counties over that period (both less than 1% respectively). Between 2013 and 2014, the region’s average annual salary increased by 1%, on par with the state increase.

Notes about the data
Data presented in 2014 dollars.

November 2017 Commission Report

Commission meeting
The agenda was lengthy this month, containing 17 items under new business (one added at the last minute) as well as items under the consent calendar and elections, appointments and confirmations.  Some of the items won’t be covered in this commission report but you can ask any questions that you may have about those items in the comments section below.  Commissioners Dave Bennett and Gary Farmer were absent.

Consent calendar
The consent calendar contained a resolution titled “A RESOLUTION HONORING ALL VETERANS AND THE EMPLOYEES OF THE BLOUNT COUNTY VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICE FOR THEIR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS.”  In the September 2017 Commission Report, I explained why I frequently vote no on these resolutions honoring people.  I abstained on this vote, which is something I rarely do.  Many of our veterans are worthy of honor, which is why I abstained rather than voting no.

While the veterans are listed first in the title of the resolution, they are barely mentioned in the resolution.  The resolution is mostly about the staff of the Blount County Veterans Affairs Office.  This resolution really diminishes our veterans.  Once again politicians were using their political office to honor government employees.

Some speak highly of Veterans Service Officer Nathan Weinbaum.  That’s good that there are people who are happy with the job he is doing.  However, he is being well paid for this job.  His salary is substantially more than the average taxpayer in Blount County.  Furthermore, he works in air an conditioned building and has great fringe benefits.  He is already being rewarded by the taxpayers with the generous salary and benefits that he receives which exceed more than the majority live on.  The people of Blount County are free to honor him anytime they so chose, without the Blount County Commission telling them to.

Donation for employee recognition
Item F4 on the agenda was a resolution to approve spending $1,500 donated to pay for a recognition luncheon for Blount County Sheriff’s Office employees.  This is a much better way to honor those who people feel are doing good for the community, than the resolutions that the county commission passes.  Actions like this speak louder than the commission’s words on paper.

Highway Department employee handbook – who has authority to approve it?
The commission was asked to approve updates to the Blount County Highway Department Employee Supplement Handbook.  I questioned why the commission was voting on this when Highway Superintendent Jeff Headrick has authority under TCA 5-23-103 to adopt a policy without commission approval.

TCA 5-23-103(c)(1) says:

“Any county official whose employees are governed by the base personnel policies adopted by the county legislative body shall have the right to adopt separate base personnel policies applicable to the employees of such official’s office by filing approved base personnel policies with the county legislative body in the same manner as set out in subsection (a), at the following times.”

Blount County government appears to have an authority problem.  The sheriff did not bring the federal inmates contract to the county commission for approval before signing the contract.  Yet, the commission is approving policies that state law says office holders have the authority to adopt without commission approval.  If state law says an office holder has the authority to act, then commission should leave the responsibility to the office holder.

Fireworks ban repeal request
The possession, sale, manufacture, storing and use of pyrotechnics (fireworks) was made illegal in Blount County under a 1949 private act.  Punishment can be severe, with fines ranging from $50-400 and/or jail time ranging from 30 days to 11 months and 29 days.

You can legally buy fireworks in Loudon County but you can’t bring them into Blount County legally.  People routinely do this and the law isn’t being enforced.  As such, the law either needs to enforced, repealed or amended to something more reasonable.

A letter from Blount County Sheriff James Berrong explains that the main complaint his office receives from fireworks is related to noise.  Berrong’s suggestion is for the fireworks ordinance be rewritten to prohibit the use of fireworks between the hours of 11 PM through 7 AM.

The resolution requests that the Tennessee General Assembly repeal the private act.  Chairman Moon declared that a 2/3rds majority of 14 votes was needed, and the resolution was postponed because of the uncertainty of whether a simple majority or a 2/3rds majority is required for a resolution requesting repeal of a private act.  One has to wonder why Ron French, who questioned the number of required votes, didn’t know the answer since he is in the 4th year of his 4th term as a county commissioner.

Commission Mike Caylor topped himself this month by flying off the handle and pointing at Mike Akard after Akard spoke in favor of the resolution.  Unfortunately that the commission video doesn’t zoom in close enough for the citizens to see Caylor’s disrespectful actions.

Purple Heart Highway
The commission passed a resolution supporting the designation of US Highway 321 through Blount County the Military Order Purple Heart Highway.  The title of the resolution shows how sloppy the wording of resolutions can be.

The title reads, “RESOLUTION NAMING U.S. HIGHWAY 321/LAMAR ALEXANDER PARKWAY FROM LOUDON COUNTY/BLOUNT COUNTY LINE NORTH TO BLOUNT COUNTY/SEVIER COUNTY LINE THE MILITARY ORDER PURPLE HEART HIGHWAY.”  The commission wasn’t actually renaming the 321 but rather showing support for the designation.  The title of a resolution should reflect what the commission is actually doing.  The title should have used the word requesting or supporting instead of making it read that the road would actually be given a new name.

Interlocal agreement between Blount County and the City of Friendsville
Item F14 is a resolution to approve an interlocal agreement between the county and Friendsville.  The City of Friendsville is in my commission district but no one from the City of Friendsville contacted to discuss this matter before bringing it to the commission.  I learned of the agreement when I read the Agenda Committee packet.

The agreement requires the Blount County Sheriff’s Office to enforce city ordinances that will be adjudicated in Blount County General Sessions Court.  The agreement says, “this agreement shall extend until such time as the City requests and expresses their intent pursuant to the applicable statutes that their designated municipal ordinance is no longer to be prosecuted by the Sheriff and General Sessions Court.”  This only mentions what happens if the city wants out of the agreement.

The resolution says, “this Interlocal Agreement is necessary and required by T.C.A. § 12-9-401 to provide for the appropriate court costs and costs of enforcement.”  The fines collected go to the city, according to state law.  The court costs are $177 for each city ordinance violation and are paid into the county’s general fund, except for processing fees collected by the clerk.

I inquired what would happen if the county needed to increase its costs for enforcement.  No answer was provided.  As such, I didn’t think it wise to approve something saying that the county would do something until Friendsville no longer wanted to continue, without knowing how the county could increase court costs if needed to cover its expenses.

Duty to report law
The county commission approved a resolution requesting that the Tennessee General Assembly enact legislation “to require a person to report a person in distress by calling 911 or a first responder.”  This resolution is dangerous to liberty for many reasons.

While the resolution doesn’t mention the word crime, this is a request to make anyone who doesn’t call 911 (the government) or a first responder a criminal.  A law without a penalty is usually just a suggestion.  We need to be very careful about what we allow government to require us to report or be penalized if we don’t.  If you see something, say something resulted in this family’s dog being killed by government.

Distress isn’t defined in the resolution.  Thus, the commission didn’t know precisely what it asking the state legislature to outlaw.

Without a clear definition of what constitutes distress, it’s possible to envision a scenario where you’re driving down the road one day minding your own business and harming no one, pass a car on the side of the road and find yourself charged with a crime a few days later because you didn’t report the person inside the vehicle who was distressed.  You could have been recorded with a government surveillance camera or an I-phone and you would then have to explain to a judge why you didn’t call 911.

The second whereas clause says, “a person who knows that another person is exposed to great physical harm and in need of assistance, and can give assistance without danger or peril to himself, should report the person in distress by calling 911 or a first responder.”  This doesn’t appear to address those instances where the person rending aid is successful in resolving the problem.  Why should someone who is rendering assistance be required to report their own help if it successful without further medical intervention?

What if someone is fearful of the government or medical practitioners?  Is it right to report someone’s problem to 911, government or emergency responders if they don’t want their situation reported?  What if the person being required to report is fearful of those they would be required to report to?  Not everyone views assistance from the police, government and allopathic medicine practitioners as being productive or amicable.  What if someone doesn’t think that reporting a distressed person to 911, government or emergency responders is the best course of action?  This appears to request that individual judgement be criminalized.

This matter stems from the disappearance of Eric Ashby, a former Tennessee resident who moved to Colorado to hunt for a “chest containing treasure fit for a pirate,” that is thought to be buried in New Mexico.  It is bizarre that the Blount County Commission was being asked to vote on a resolution asking for state law in Tennessee because someone from Tennessee moved to Colorado to hunt for a modern day pirate’s treasure that may be in the state of New Mexico.

Ashby disappeared after his raft capsized in the Arkansas River.  Those with Ashby on the treasure hunting trip made it safely back to land but Ashby did not.  None of those who returned safely reported Ashby’s emergency.  Thus, the commission was asked to support the enactment of a new law because those with Ashby didn’t call police for help.

However that isn’t the whole story.  It turns out that a bystander who witnessed the incident did report it to the police.  Thus, it seems likely that the law Ashby’s family and friends are requesting would not have saved his life, unfortunately.  I offer condolences to Ashby’s family and friends for his tragic loss of life but we don’t need to pass another law that could make criminals out of Tennesseans when it likely wouldn’t have saved Ashby’s life if it had been the law in Colorado.

Up next:
The commission will be filling the Tennessee Senate seat vacated by Doug Overbey who was appointed the U.S. attorney for East Tennessee.

Speaking Freely with Tona Monroe

Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe was a guest speaker on Speaking Freely on 92.3 FM this evening.  She discussed her recent nomination of Scott Williams to replace Doug Overbey in the state senate, her political philosophy, the secrecy in purchasing that occurred with a state law passed last year and scamera and speeding tickets.

Nathan Keeble, Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, Joshua Eakle and Sherry “Voluntary” Clark

State Sen. Doug Overbey nominated as U.S. Attorney for East Tennessee

Humphrey on the Hill is reporting that state Senator Doug Overbey has been nominated as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

No surprise here.  Overbey’s comment on the matter was reported here on BC Public Record a month ago.

Hopefully now we’ll finally be rid of him from the Tennessee General Assembly.

State prison inmate cost is $76 a day while TN pays counties $37 a day

According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, the average daily cost to house an inmate in state prison is $76 a day.  That is more than twice what the state pays counties to house state felons.  The state currently pays counties a daily per diem of $37.  It’s no wonder that the state is content with letting their felons be housed in local jails.  It makes their costs lower, their books look better and it frees up more money to spend elsewhere.

But don’t worry the state is here to help local governments out by increasing the daily per diem rate for housing state felons in local jails to $39 a day.  That’s a whopping $2 daily increase.  Never mind that, at $39 a day, the state still averages saving $37 a day.*  State lawmakers and officials need to be able brag about being good stewards of taxpayer money by keeping the state budget lower and having a $2 billion surplus of your money.

Some good news: statewide recidivism was down in 2016.

Source: http://tn.gov/correction/news/49926

*The cost savings to the state may be less in counties with a contract for state sentenced felons.

Gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases for 400 jobs?

Gas tax and vehicle registration fee increase for 400 jobs?
http://www.brianhornback.com/?p=17226

Another secret crony deal.  http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2017/may/04/finnish-tire-maker-build-360-milliplant-dayto/426231/

When will the rule of law be applied equally to all businesses rather than tax breaks and incentives for the special few?

 

Rep. Art Swann received $1,000 donation from James Haslam & voted for gas tax increase

Republican state Representative Art Swann, one of two reps. from Blount County, received a $1,000 donation from James Haslam of Pilot Oil during the 2016 election, even though Swann had no opponent.  Rep. Art Swann voted to raise the gas tax and increase vehicle registration fees.

James Haslam is a relative of oil baron, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

Read more on state lawmakers regarding their votes on the gas tax & registration fee increases and donations from the Haslam family and JOBS4TN PAC, which is mostly funded by Bill Haslam, here: http://tennesseestar.com/2017/05/04/follow-the-money-campaign-receipts-may-shed-light-on-why-some-republicans-voted-for-the-gas-tax/

HASLAM II , JAMES
P.O. BOX 10146
KNOXVILLE , TN 37939
PETROLEUM DISTRIBUTION
PILOT OIL
Primary 08/03/2016 $1,000.00 $1,000.00

Info on TCSA funding and support for IMPROVE act

Last week I wrote about the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) sending a newsletter telling local elected officials to call their legislators in support of the IMPROVE act.  This legislation increases the gas tax and raises the non-commercial vehicle registration fee $5 annually.

This organization is funded by you, the taxpayers.  Here is a copy of the meeting minutes for the meeting that the TCSA voted to support the IMPROVE act.  The TCSA website says the board endorsed the legislation.  Since the meeting minutes don’t give a roll call vote of the TCSA Board, I asked if any voted against supporting the legislation that will soon be law.  Executive Director David Connor wrote, “The board vote was a voice vote. No members voted against supporting the measure and no one asked to be recorded as a no.”  The minutes contain a listing of the members that were present and absent from the meeting.

Blount County paid $3,875 in dues to the TCSA.  The TCSA annual budget is available here.

Do you think your tax money should be spent to fund an association that supports/endorses raises taxes and fees on you?

Weekly Report from TN Co. Commissioners Association April 20, 2017

4/20/17

Members,

I am attaching1 of 3 reports and they are described below. I will be sending the other two reports in another email. The governor’s approve (should be IMPROVE) act passed Wednesday and it will insure additional transportation funding for the state and local governments.

Report “A” Shows

·       1 bill we are watching on the house floor Monday, 4/24/17 and 2 on the Senate floor the same day.

·       20 active bills next week and of those bills 3 are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA

·        13 bills that have been placed behind the budget and are depending on funding by the governor’s final proposal. Of the 13 bills behind the budged 4 are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       11 bills assigned to Calendar and Rules that have not been put on notice and 3 of those bills are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       6 bills in the House budget sub-committee waiting on a special calendar and of those bills 1 is strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       57 bills that have been placed in the Senate general sub-committee and of those bills 2 are strongly supported and 4 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·        35 bills are off notice and of those 4 are strongly supported and 1 is strongly opposed by TCCA.

Report “B” Shows

·       11 bills that have been deferred until 2018 and of those none are strongly supported or strongly opposed by TCCA

·       5 bills recommended for summer study and of those 1 is strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA

·       77 bills have passed and of those 9 were strongly supported and 2 were strongly opposed by TCCA. Of the 77 bills 26 have already been signed by the governor and assigned public chapter numbers.

·       12 bill have failed and of those 2 were strongly opposed by TCCA

·       8 bills have been withdrawn and none of them were strongly supported or strongly opposed by TCCA

Report “C” Shows

·       144 bills have not been put on notice by their sponsor and of those 10 are strongly supported and 5 are strongly opposed by TCCA

Thanks,

Charlie

4-20-17 Report A
4-20-17 Report B
4-20-17 Report C

Tennessee County Services Association tells local elected officials to support gas tax increase

The Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) sends local elected officials a newsletter, called Capitol Update, while the Tennessee General Assembly is in session.  The TCSA failed to mention the purchasing secrecy legislation in the six issues that it sent to me in 2016.  When I asked TCSA Executive Director David Connor why he didn’t include bills that made an open process a secret government process he wrote, “Since it was mirroring the process used at the state, I didn’t see a problem with it.”  Two wrongs apparently make a right.

This year the TCSA has sent newsletter with a headline telling local officials to call their state lawmakers and tell them to support the gas tax increase included in the slyly named IMPROVE act.  TCSA seem more interested in telling local officials what to do rather than keeping them informed of legislation that creates local government secrecy.  Is the tail wagging the dog?

County Technical Assistance Service gets $28,250 per month from counties’ share of gas tax

University of Tennessee, County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) gets $28,250 a month from the gas tax.  See page 9 of this Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasure report.

For more on the assistance and service provided by CTAS, read the March 2017 Commission Report.

Should this money be diverted from the roads?

And you thought they were elected to represent you…

by Horatio Bunce

Silly peasant taxpayers….don’t you know that party comes before principles? Especially when your precious party has a super-duper majority. It would really be embarrassing if your party didn’t “win”.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams of Cookeville with his finger in the wind regarding Haslam’s Gasolinazo:

Williams did not announce the results of the straw poll, and said that the goal is to make sure members don’t have a (sic) to make a politically difficult vote on a bill that might not pass.

“If we know that the bill is having trouble, it’s my job as the caucus chair to make sure you don’t vote on something that will fail,” he said. (bolded for emphasis)

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/apr/11/bid-strip-gas-tax-hike/422331/

Guest column: Bills smack of cronyism

http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/04/11/citizens-voice-bills-smack-cronyism/100327302/

This legislation has passed the Tennessee Senate.  However, it was amended to something that could be worse.  The amendment appears to make any contract or agreement secret until a vote by the local legislative body.  This goes far beyond secret, crony development “deals.”  It remains to be seen what happens in the state House.  This is a bureaucrats dream come true but making all this secret could be dangerous to the taxpaying citizens.

Rep. Susan Lynn tries to sell Haslam’s Gasolinazo

source: State Representative Susan Lynn’s Weekly Wrap

by Horatio Bunce

State Representative Susan Lynn has an email newsletter called the Weekly Wrap. She has recently taken time off from selling Gov. Haslam’s re-branding of Common Core in Tennessee to selling Gov. Haslam’s massive fuel tax increases called the IMPROVE Act, while ignoring the $2 BILLION surplus in over-taxation the state is currently burdened with. Rep. Lynn engages in some….interesting….mathematics in justifying Haslam’s fuel tax increase to declare it “pocketbook neutral”. Meanwhile the Transportation Department is, like the Common Core tactic that worked so well, simply renaming the massive tax increase measure the “Tax Cut Act of 2017“.

As Rep. Lynn insults our intelligence to a slightly lesser degree than “Boss” Doss, I’ll give her a pass as she is from The North™ and possibly thinks us dumb hillbillies would actually use Common Core Math. Since she asked, here’s my calculation on the “Tax Cut Act of 2017”. From her Weekly Wrap:

“Improve Act Close to Floor Vote

The House is close to voting on the Improve Act – I want to know what you think. Please email me to let me know.

“The Improve Act is revenue neutral and now pocketbook neutral for most people. It will lower the sales tax on food a full percent or $1 for each $100 you spend at the store. It will also lower the Hall Income tax and the Franchise and Excise Tax on factories. It will raise the gas 6 cents or if you have a 15 gallon tank – or .90 cents a fill up. If you don’t drive a gas vehicle, it will raise the a (sic) diesel tax and impose a $100 annual registration fee for an electric vehicle.”

So as long as gas prices do not increase and you spend 3:1 food vs. fuel, then it is “pocket book neutral” as long as “most people” maintain this ratio of course. I think “most” still means more than 50% even in Common Core Mathspeak.  Of course, if you are buying diesel and need 15 gallons, it will cost an additional $0.12/gallon or $1.80. Oops, there went that pocketbook thingy. I guess I need to buy another $90 in groceries so I can “save” $0.90 to keep your fuel tax increase “neutral”?

But who cares about diesel anyway? What? Oh. The truck drivers. You mean the ones that deliver just about everything you buy at the mega-lo-mart, corporate welfare queens Amazon and FedEx……and the grocery? Yeah, those diesel trucks. Gee, I wonder what that 71% increase in the diesel fuel tax will do to that $100 grocery bill you used to have? Hint: they generally have larger than 15-gallon fuel tanks and lower fuel mileage than your personal car. What will the additional 33% increase in the gasoline tax mean for your grocery budget? I am wondering if the “leadership” Republicans are really this short-sighted or if they are only counting on you being easily fooled?

Conveniently left out of the discussion are the huge cuts to the Hall Income Tax ($102.1M) and cuts to Franchise Taxes ($122.3M), which when combined with the forecast reduction in sales tax on food give a total cut of $279.2M. In other words, the proposed $1 savings on your groceries sales tax only amounts to 19.6% of the “cuts” that we have to pass massive fuel tax increases to make “revenue neutral”.

Then we move on to use of the term “user fees” instead of that bad word “taxes” and explain that “user fees” should be paid by those using the roads, but then despite her photo at the top of the newsletter with “No Socialism” prominently displayed, we are taught that Some Socialism is acceptable when it comes to taxes (or they are not good Republican principles – kind of hard to tell which):

“Why lower some taxes while raising other taxes? Government uses fund accounting. Some taxes go into the General Fund and other taxes go into the Highway Fund. The taxes in the Highway Fund are all user fees – so if you drive – you pay for the roads, and you pay for them in proportion to how much you use them.

Paying for government by use of user fees is a good Republican principle. Much of government is not user fees but subsidized through the General Fund taxes because some things cannot be paid for by use of user fees. For instance, K – 12 education – most families could never pay all of what it costs to educate their children. TennCare too is a subsidy to the recipient – because the poor cannot pay for their care. Higher education is part user fee and part subsidized – students pay tuition (user fee) but they pay less than half of what their education actually costs – the tax payers through the General Fund subsidize the rest, and they also subsidize the buildings and maintenance for the buildings.”

Wow, for a second there, I thought a sacred cow was getting slaughtered. No, I guess not everyone can afford $10,000 each for their 1.8 kids to go to “free” government school when the average household income is less than $50k and 25% or more of us qualify for food stamps. But maybe we could figure out how multiple private schools provide an education for 40% less, rather than  using the super-inflated “free” schools’ price to justify another tax increase. Here’s a little food for thought. Let’s say the “free” schools could cut only half the difference in price to a mere $8000/student/year : $2000 * 1,000,000 public school students = $2,000,000,000 EVERY YEAR.

And the higher education language…students pay less than half of what education costs. Gee, after 13 YEARS (plus any pre-K) of “free” education why should they start paying for it at all? This is more divide-the-people obfuscation since of course everyone paying for tuition (or not) is a taxpayer paying for higher education (and their 20% inflation rates). Even when the students graduate, they pay taxes the rest of their lives in Tennessee. Now that community college is “free”, just wait to see how much it costs!

“So the Governor hopes to lower several taxes in the General Fund thus eliminating the surplus and effectively shifting the surplus to the Highway Fund by raising the user fee taxes. The plan is for all of this reduction and shifting to be as revenue neutral as possible to as many tax payers as possible.

Truly, every person and family will have their own calculous (sic). So please, take out a pencil and paper and do your own math.”

After justifying this massive fuel tax increase with people buying $100 in groceries and not being able to afford public school costs, the lion’s share of the tax breaks are the Hall Income Tax and Franchise Tax folk. Is that really helping “most people” or “as many tax payers as possible”? Because the rest of you dupes will be paying more for your fuel AND more for the same groceries, which means….your grocery sales tax cut is ALSO REVENUE NEUTRAL.

STOP WITH THE LIES ALREADY! IT’S A TAX INCREASE ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT!

Weekly Report from TN Co. Commissioners Association April 7, 2017

Members,

I’m attaching 3 reports and the explanations are listed below. This week the legislative process peaked out and has started to slow down.

Report “A” shows 11 bills in C&R that have not been put on notice, 70 bills on the move next week and 1 Senate bill scheduled for C&R 4/20/17.

Report “B” shows 46 bills have passed, 10 bills have failed and 8 bills have been withdrawn.

Report “C” shows 52 Senate bills have been placed in General Sub, 28 House bills have been take off notice, 5 bills have been deferred until next year, 7 House bills have been placed behind the budget, 3 House bills are waiting for a special committee, 4 bills have been recommended for summer study and 1 house bill has been set for the last calendar for Finance sub..

The bills that are in General Sub could be put on notice any day and the House bills that are off notice can be put on notice any day except the bills assigned to committees that have been shut down.

Thanks and have a great weekend,

Charlie

4-7-17 Report A

4-7-17 Report B

4-7-17 Report C