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Initiative to Roll Back Nashville’s 34 Percent Property Tax Hike Receives Election Commission Verification, Heads Back to Clerk’s Office
September 15, 2020 Jason M. Reynolds
Nashvillians now likely will have input on the city’s 34 to 37 percent property tax hike, a conservative activist said in reaction to the verification of a ballot initiative.
The Davidson County Election Commission on Monday verified the referendum effort for the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, WSMV said. That could limit the property tax increase to 2 percent. The effort now goes to the Metro Clerk’s Office and potentially to the Dec. 5 ballot.
Tori Venable, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee (AFP-TN), lauded the initiative’s progress in a statement.
Venable said, “Nashvillians can now have their say on this harmful 34% property tax hike. If the government can’t restrain itself, we the people will act to restrain the government. Mayor Cooper’s unrealistic scare tactics won’t work; we look forward to voters proving it at the polls and making their voices heard in December.
“What’s dangerous is the fact some members of the Metro Council are already plotting to reject voters and taxpayers having their voice heard on this issue that will have real consequences for families and businesses. The Metro Council needs to stop looking for ways to force this tax hike on Nashville and focus on addressing the root causes of reckless spending and cronyist taxpayer-incentive deals that put us in this situation,” Venable said.
The Beacon Center examined Nashville’s budget in its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
Every year since 2007, Nashville’s finances have weakened, with its Net Position becoming negative for the first time in 2018, well before the tornado or COVID-19 shutdown.
Mayor Cooper has stated that there is no other way to bring the city back from the financial brink without a massive property tax increase, even though many businesses cannot operate as the city remains partially shut down to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. However, without structural reforms, Nashville’s impossible promises, bloated size of government, and lack of fiscal discipline will continue to plague the city. If these changes are not made, it won’t be long until Nashville is broke yet again, just at an even higher level. Therefore, before any tax increase is considered, Metro should first focus on reducing long-term liabilities, rightsize its government workforce, stop eroding away its tax base, and place caps on the growth of spending. Enacting these types of reforms will do far more than a massive permanent tax increase to restore citizen’s faith in the fiscal stewardship of the city and set Nashville up for long-term prosperity.
The Beacon Center was not alone in its analysis.
Last November, State Comptroller Justin Wilson told Metro Council the state could take control of the city’s finances if it failed to get its finances in order, The Center Square reported.
In August, Mayor John Cooper called the referendum effort a “poison pill” that would cause stagnation, The Tennessee Star reported. AFP-TN announced it had turned in about 20,000 signatures to the Metro Clerk’s Office.
The act would not only roll back the 34-37 percent property tax increase, but it would limit such increases to 2 percent per year without voters having approved it.
Nashville attorney Jim Roberts last month said the initiative is like a “Help Nashville from going bankrupt act.” He made the statement on an episode on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line. A transcript is available here.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.
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