budget amendment

Lee’s budget amendment is out. Here’s what’s in it.

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State Address on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig)

Gov. Bill Lee’s annual budget amendment is out, marking the beginning of the end of the legislative session. As first reported by Axios on Monday, the plan includes issuing up to $500 million in bonds in support of a new domed stadium in Nashville to replace the current home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans (initial debt service would be up to $55 million).

According to slides presented by the administration, the majority of the funding for the new stadium would come from Metro Nashville and private sources.

Also in the governor’s plan:

— $80 million for a one-month mortarium on the state’s 4% sales tax on groceries.

— $66 million for air carrier support and $12 million for general aviation.

— $20 million to reduce the professional privilege tax on brokers, lawyers, doctors, and lobbyists from $400 to $300 per year.

— $20 million for riverfront development in Memphis.

— $17 million in grants to prepare a Nashville track for a NASCAR race.

— $15 million for voting machines with a paper trail.

— $10 million for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Lee proposes 1-month pause in sales tax on groceries

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State Address on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig)

Gov. Bill Lee plans to propose a one-month pause in Tennessee’s 4% sales tax on groceries when he unveils his amendments to the annual spending plan for the budget year starting on July 1.

When Republican lawmakers in 2020 proposed a two-month “food tax holiday,” the proposal was estimated to cost the state about $100 million in forgone revenue.

Legislative Democrats have urged Lee to consider a moratorium on the state’s 27.4 tax on each gallon of gasoline amid spiking prices at the pump. Senate Republicans earlier this year floated a one-year break on the state’s $35 license plate fees. The Revenue Department collected $359 million worth of tag registrations in 2021.

Here’s the full release from the governor’s office:+

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced his proposal for a 30-day suspension of state and local grocery sales tax to provide direct financial relief to Tennesseans amid surging inflation nationwide.

“As Americans see their cost-of-living skyrocket amid historic inflation, suspending the grocery tax is the most effective way to provide direct relief to every Tennessean,” said Gov. Lee. “Our state has the ability to put dollars back in the pockets of hardworking Tennesseans, and I thank members of the General Assembly for their continued partnership in maintaining our fiscally conservative approach.” 

The Governor’s proposal to suspend state and local sales tax on groceries for 30 days will be included in the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget amendment, which will be delivered on Tuesday, March 29.

Lee will host a roundtable with business leaders in Covington today, Thursday, March 24, to discuss the tax cut proposal and hear about the local impacts of nationwide economic challenges.

Knoxville ballpark, Tebow charity among entities getting grants in Lee budget

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters following his address to a joint convention of the General Assembly on Jan. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

While big-ticket items like a sales tax holiday on food may be getting much fo the attention in Gov. Bill Lee’s budget amendment, Capitol-watchers have also been pouring over the fine print to see what other interesting items are getting funding.

The AP’s Jonathan Mattise spotted a $13.5 million grant for the minor league ballpark development former gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd is proposing for downtown Knoxville. Another $2 million would pay for renovations at the Hermitage, the Nashville home of President Andrew Jackson, and $1.2 million for the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Her Song project serving human trafficking victims.

Here’s a look at some of other grants included in the budget amendment:

Grants and Community InitiativesAmount
The Sports Authority of the County of Knox and the City of Knoxville, Tennessee$13,500,000
City of Memphis – Youth Sports Complex$10,000,000
City of Johnson City – Walnut Corridor Development$5,000,000
University of Memphis – Carnegie Designation$5,000,000
End Slavery TN – Serving Human Trafficking Victims – Year 1 of 3$3,500,000
Fayette County – Courthouse Renovation$3,000,000
Human Coalition – Serving Pregnant Women and Children in Need$3,000,000
Music City Executive Airport$2,000,000
Hermitage Foundation$2,000,000
City of Memphis – Renovation of Levitt Shell$1,300,000
Her Song – Tim Tebow Foundation – Serving Human Trafficking Victims – Year 1 of 3$1,200,000
Associated Builders and Contractors Greater TN Chapter – Knox County CTE Center$1,000,000
Renewal House, Inc. – Serving Women and Children in Need$1,000,000
Teach for America – Teacher Support in High-Need Areas$1,000,000
Gospel Music Association – GMA Center$1,000,000
Hope Smiles – Oral Health Safety Net$800,000
Niswonger Foundation – College and Career Awareness Activities$700,000
Carroll Academy – Rural Juvenile Alternative Education$600,000
TN Anti-Slavery Alliance – Services for Human Trafficking Victims$600,000
Agape Child and Family Services, Inc. – Serving Families in Need$500,000
Corner to Corner – Entrepreneurship Support for Communities in Need$500,000
Delta Dental of TN / Smile 180 Foundation – Oral Health Safety Net$500,000
tnAchieves – Supports Transition to College$500,000
YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South – Education / Health Support for Young Children$500,000
YMCA of Middle TN – Mentorship / Education for Kids in Need$500,000
Men of Valor – Re-Entry Support Services$499,500
TN Builders Education Foundation – CTE Construction Expansion$478,000
Science Alliance – STEM Educational Museums$450,000
TN Association of Business Foundation – Public-Private Advanced Manufacturing Partnership$400,000
The Next Door, Inc. – Recovery and Support for Re-Entry$400,000
The Jason Foundation, Inc. – Mental Health Student Support$305,000
Blount County – Senior Center$300,000
Town of Jonesborough – Agriculture Education$300,000

It’s budget amendment week in Tennessee! (UPDATED)

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on March 22, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is scheduled to present his annual budget amendment this week, usually a sign that the legislative session is nearing its end. The updated spending plan comes at a complicated time for policymakers given the influx of federal COVID-19 relief funds and the prospect of even more money from President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package.

Lee in a speech to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce last week hinted that a tax cut will be part of his budget amendment. Though details remain scarce, it will be interesting to see how the Lee administration tries to thread the needle on meeting federal guidance that money from the COVID relief fund can’t be used to fund tax cuts.

UPDATE: The Tennessean reports Lee plans to propose a two-week sales tax holiday on food purchased at restaurants and supermarkets. The proposal is estimated to cost $100 million in forgone revenue.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery and his counterpart from Kentucky have filed a lawsuit seeking to undo the strings attached to the federal funds.


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