business

Tourist trips to TN set new record in 2016

News release from TN Department of Tourist Development

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development joins tourism industry partners to celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week May 7-13 by marking another year of record-setting growth for the state’s $18.4 billion tourism industry.

According to the latest research from DK SHIFFLET, 110 million people visited a Tennessee destination in 2016, a 4.4 percent year-over-year increase, making Tennessee one of the Top 10 states for domestic travel in the United States for the third consecutive year. Approx. 80 percent (88.4 million) of Tennessee visitors are leisure travelers, an increase of 5.1 percent compared to 2015. This increase of leisure travelers can be attributed to overnight stays, which grew by 5.2 percent.

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24 big firms collectively save $57M per year under Haslam corporate tax break plans

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has calculated that one provision in the governor’s tax package would collectively give $113.8 million annually ib tax breaks to 518 Tennessee companies with just 24 big firms get more than half the benefits in corporate tax cuts, reports the Times-Free Press.

Haslam calls his tax package the IMPROVE Act; other supporters have begun calling it The Tax Cut Act of 2017. It increases gas and diesel fuel taxes while lowering the sales tax on groceries and some other levies – most notably a break for manufacturers in payments of franchise and excise taxes. The newspaper says it got a copy of the administration analysis, which has not been released publicly.

Twenty-four large manufacturers would see annual reductions of $1 million or more in their state franchise and excise taxes, according to the analysis obtained by the Times Free Press and verified by two legislative sources. Those tax breaks would account for $57.44 million, or 50.7 percent, of the total $113.3 million.

Another 145 companies would see tax cuts between $100,000 and $1 million, for a collective reduction of $47.95 million. All told, 93 percent of the proposed change, or $105.4 million, would go to companies that would save $100,000 or more. Some 349 smaller companies would share a $7.89 million reduction., according to the analysis.

Haslam said the manufacturers’ tax cut is aimed at encouraging existing companies to boost investment and new ones to locate to Tennessee by letting them choose the formula for calculating their franchise and excise tax burden.

…The analysis does not identify specific companies impacted. State law prohibits public disclosure of most taxpayer information.

‘Petland bill’ passes Senate, fails in House

A bill setting state standards for pet store operations while restricting their regulation by local governments was approved by the Senate but then failed on the House floor Monday evening after extensive debate.

The final House vote was 45 yes, 47 no with two present and not voting. Fifty votes are required for passage. The measure known as “the Petland bill” (SB519) had passed the Senate 19-11.

Much of the debate in both chambers came over amendments to exempt various counties and cities from being covered the bill sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville.

All such efforts failed in the Senate, but the House approved three of 13 such efforts – applying to Blount County, Sumner County and the City of Hendersonville. All the amendment votes were close – ties in two cases.

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On ‘Big Pharma’ lobbying clout in TN

A proposal to require that pharmaceutical companies notify state officials when they increase the cost of chemotherapy medication by more than 10 percent ran into opposition in a House committee, triggering an outburst against drug company lobbyists from Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, reports the Memphis Daily News.

The proposal came in the form of an amendment offered by Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, to a bill (HB1059) sponsored by Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, when it came up in the House Insurance and Banking Committee. The measure, as filed, would prohibit an insurance provider from requiring a higher co-payment for oral anticancer medication than for injected chemotherapy medication.

“What chapped me is these damn lobbyists, these pharmaceutical people and the people that think they run this building – and nobody’s voted for them – guaranteeing if you do this and put an amendment on it they’re going to kill the damn bill. That’s what I don’t like,” Towns says.

… “Nobody’s voted for them sapsuckers, and they don’t have the power, nor should they have the power unless these jokers (lawmakers) acquiesce,” Towns says. “So my concern was that they need to have some courage and to stand up and they need to get this health care cost in terms of medicine and pharmaceuticals under control, because there’s greed, there’s been greed and there will continue to be greed if there ain’t no courage by these members.”

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Bill set for passage bans local regulation of pet stores

A bill drafted at the request of Petlland, a pet store chain looking to expand franchise operations in Tennessee, includes consumer protection for purchasers of cats and dogs as well as protection of pet sellers from local government regulation.

The bill (SB519) is sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, while opposed by animal advocacy groups. It has cleared committees in both the House and Senate and is scheduled for floor votes in both chambers this week.

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TN business incentive tally: $2.5B per year (double national average)

 

A study by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research indicates Tennessee state and local governments provide more than $2.5 billion in business incentives annually. That’s nearly 1 percent of the state’s private-sector gross domestic product and makes Tennessee fourth highest in the nation, the study’s author, Timothy Bartik, tells The Tennessean.

In exchange for taxpayer support, businesses are expected to generate jobs and spur economic growth. State and local leaders point to success stories — new companies attracted by economic development packages. But there’s an inherent trade-off for the taxpayer. Grants and tax revenue could instead be directed to improve schools, fix crumbling highways and other key government functions.

The analysis, “A New Panel Database on Business Incentives…in the United States” leads to some key questions: how much is enough? And are the incentives designed to attract well-paying jobs, or dead-end work with little or no benefits? (Note: You can download a copy HERE.)

Bartik, a senior economist at the Michigan-based think tank, found that states with high levels of incentives don’t have significantly better economic performance than their neighbors.

“If incentives have an effect, it’s at best relatively modest,” he said.

Compared with neighboring states, Tennessee leads the way. Incentive levels are 91 percent lower in Virginia, for instance, and 82 percent lower in Georgia. As of 2015, Tennessee’s incentives are 105 percent higher than the national average.

The state stands out for its property tax abatements, the analysis found. In these deals, local governments typically agree to forgo property taxes if a company commits to creating a certain number of jobs and investing a certain about in capital. Because companies make annual payments in lieu of taxes, the arrangements are called “PILOTs.”

Business bill pits local governments against Christian conservatives

Legislation that prohibits state and local governments from taking discriminatory action against a business on the basis of the company’s  internal policies has been sidetracked in the state Senate amid some controversy..

City and county governments have voiced concerns about the measure, reports The Tennessean.

Roger Campbell, chairman of the policy/legislative committee for the Tennessee City Management Association, said…  “People were surprised by it, saying why is it needed, why is it coming so soon in the session,” Campbell said.

Campbell, the city manager in Maryville, said he and others are concerned about what could result if the measure is passed.

“We could be in court constantly over something,” he said.

On the other side, the Senate move last week sending the bill from the floor back to a committee has prompted an  “action alert” from the state’s largest Christian conservative organization, which is lobbying for the measure.

In an email Friday to supporters and Christian activists, the Family Action Council of Tennessee said SB127 “would protect private businesses from having cities and liberal elected officials meddle in their personnel and employee benefit policies.

“The state should not allow liberal elected officials or liberal cities to discriminate against a business owner because he or she does not provide abortion coverage to employees or provide special legal rights based on sexual orientation/gender identity!,” says the “action alert” urging people to call members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and push for a “yes” vote.

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NFIB survey finds slim majority opposed to Haslam’s gas tax

News release from National Federation of Independent Business

NASHVILLE, Feb. 13, 2017—Tennessee members of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small-business association, are giving mixed reviews of Governor’s Haslam’s proposed IMPROVE Act, which includes an increase in the state gasoline and diesel taxes.

“NFIB’s policy positions are based on the direct input of our members,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB. “When we surveyed our members this month about the governor’s Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy Act, there really was no clear consensus, at least on the question of a tax increase.”

When asked if they support or oppose a proposed seven-cent increase in the gas tax and 12-cent increase in the diesel tax, 55 percent of NFIB members responding to the survey oppose, 40 percent support, and 5 percent are undecided.

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TN Chamber of Commerce sets agenda for legislative session

News release from Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry

NASHVILLE, TN – The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry today unveiled its legislative policy agenda for the 2017 session of the Tennessee General Assembly. Developed based on the needs and feedback of the Chamber’s business members across the state, the agenda focuses on the policy areas of highest importance to Tennessee’s business community, ranging from infrastructure and business tax reform issues to workforce development and regulatory compliance. The key centerpiece for this year’s agenda focuses on keeping Tennessee competitive by making critical investments to our state’s transportation infrastructure and reforming tax policies that hinder manufacturing growth.

In announcing this year’s agenda, Tennessee Chamber President and CEO Bradley Jackson remarked, “The Tennessee Chamber sees maintaining and enhancing Tennessee’s economically competitive posture as the top priority for businesses and employers across the state. Our state must focus on improving our overall tax system to ensure we do not competitively disadvantage Tennessee manufacturers and on modernizing our road funding mechanisms to adequately keep pace with rising automotive fuel efficiency and increased mobility demands.”

Further addressing the need for growth-driven tax reform, Greg Martz, Chairman of the Tennessee Chamber’s Board of Directors, noted, “On behalf of business and industry across our great state, we are pleased to present an agenda that is focused on Tennessee’s continued economic development. We look forward to working with our state legislature to make sure this agenda becomes a reality and propels Tennessee even further in our economic growth and nationally competitive rankings.”

In examining other areas of the Chamber’s agenda, Jackson noted, “Addressing the needs of Tennessee employers facing educational skills gaps in the workforce is also a major concern for our state’s businesses. The Tennessee Chamber will work to improve the readiness of Tennessee’s next generation of workers by strengthening academic preparation and performance-driven accountability in our K-12 schools to better equip students for a successful and sustained entry into college, technical school, and the workforce. Moreover, we continue to support enhanced college and technical training accessibility for Tennessee’s degree and certificate seekers and will work to further implement and fund the Tennessee Education Labor Alignment Program, Tennessee Promise, and Tennessee Reconnect.”

Note: The full agenda listing is HERE.

Study finds business tax credit costs TN $1.2M per job

An independent firm has found that Tennessee taxpayers forgo $1.2 million each year to subsidize a single job through the state’s largest business tax break program, reports The Tennessean.

Chicago-based consulting firm Anderson Economic Group was retained to do a study of business tax credits because of a provision inserted into legislation enacted in 2015. The newspaper obtained a copy of the report, which says Tennessee loses $142 million per year in revenue because of tax credits.

Businesses that received the Industrial Machinery Tax Credit actually hired fewer people, on average, than their peers in the few years after taking the credit, the consultants found. When taking into account a ripple effect – how much the additional spending affected other parts of the economy – the annual impact came out to an additional 55 jobs per year.

That particular credit cost the state an average of $66.7 million per year from 2011 through 2014, or $1.2 million per job.

“The results show that, on average, the industrial machinery credit does not have a significant effect on employment,” the authors wrote in the report “The Economic Impact of Business Tax Credits in Tennessee.”

One explanation for the meager job growth could be that companies are automating job functions and buying expensive equipment that doesn’t require many workers to operate.

“At first, that sounds like a really bad thing,” said Fox from the University of Tennessee. “Having said that, it’s important to recognize that appropriate investment in Tennessee companies is key to Tennessee’s future.”

…Besides employment, the credit generates an annual average of $7.4 million in additional economic activity and $2 million of worker earnings, the consultants found.

…The second-largest business tax break in Tennessee is the Jobs Tax Credit, which cost the state an average of $52.1 million annually from 2011 to 2014. It gives companies a credit of $4,500 per job, with enhancements depending on how much a company invests in the state and where it locates.

Consultants found the jobs credit had a broader economic impact. When taking into account the ripple effect, the jobs credit generated an average of 600 jobs per year, according to the report. That equates to about $87,000 per job.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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