Kingsport (Tennessee) Times News on giving tax relief to those who need it most

Tennessee continues to be battered by the pandemic, ranking 13th in the nation at mid-month in total cases, 14th in new infections, and 15th in total deaths. Yet the state has done well economically with hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected revenue, never mind continued infusions of cash from the federal government’s money tree.

There’s so much money floating around the halls of state government in Nashville that Gov. Bill Lee is again suggesting the state give some of it back. As he did last year, Lee has proposed a $100 million, two-week sales tax holiday, $25 million of which would be saved on groceries and $75 million on restaurants and bar taxes.

All well and good. But can the state do more? What would it cost to dispense with sales taxes some given weekend on all retail purchases? What a shot in the arm that would be to local economies.

As might be expected, the state’s largest union is holding its hand out for a piece of this pie. “With the state bringing in record surplus month after month, there is no excuse to not make significant increases to public education funding,” said Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown. “The governor’s budget amendment is woefully short on meaningful K-12 investment.”

We think there’s a very good excuse. Better that surplus government revenue be returned from whence it came. Has the TEA made a case to give teachers more money? Brown is not talking about schools after all. The state doesn’t build schools.

Lee successfully advanced a similar sales tax holiday last year, which included an extra weekend of tax-free, back-to-school shopping and a week of tax-free dining at restaurants. But even the back-to-school tax savings had restrictions on what qualified for tax relief.

Expand the tax holiday.

As our state representatives explore the governor’s suggestions, let’s hope they can find ways to add even more tax relief for those who need it most.

Johnson City (Tennessee) Press on showing hospitality to prospective residents

Last week, we learned about a program from local business officials to bring new residents to Johnson City.

City commissioners approved the first third of $300,000 for a program intended to market the area to remote workers living elsewhere who may be considering relocation. The full program includes cash incentives up to $5,000 for those who become new residents.

The work-from-home trend accelerated by the yearlong coronavirus pandemic has freed up thousands of office employees to work anywhere with a suitable internet connection. Early evidence suggests those newly untethered professionals may prefer a change in scenery, perhaps eschewing metropolises for the scenery and low cost of living available in more rural areas.

Several cities and states were quick to offer move-in bonuses and incentives in hopes of scooping up some of these remote workers and their higher-than-median household incomes.

We hope Johnson City’s relocation incentive program is successful. We’ve long preached the benefits to the community of bringing in new residents and new types of jobs.

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