Track HB 740 here
This is a question I keep asking myself as bill after bill slides right through the state legislature.
I have student loans. So does just about everyone I know that has graduated from college in the past 20 years or so.
Quite honestly, you can’t go to school, even with scholarships, without some kind of loan unless your parents have the money to pay for school outright…which is a very small minority of people.
Student loans, like every other kind of loan, are a contract between the institution loaning the money (often backed by the Federal Government) and the individual requesting the loan. Like all those other loans, there is a process by which the lender can seek relief if the individual is not paying their loan back. Garnishments, court, you name it. They have ways to get paid.
So I’m kind of stunned (though I probably shouldn’t be) that members of the state legislature are seeking to decline, suspend, or revoke the licenses of teacher if they haven’t kept up with the student loans. I mean, wow. That seems unnecessarily punitive to me.
I’m curious to know how the sponsors of this bill expect those student loans to ever get paid if the people can’t work, but I’m even more curious to know where it will stop.
Will teachers also lose their license for defaulting on a car loan? Paying their credit card bill late? What about the cable bill? I know there are a lot of legislators that collected a pretty penny in donations from ATT when they were pushing their cable service legislation up there a few years ago. Will people get effectively fired for not paying for their uVerse bill?
Tennessee is in the middle of the pack in terms of starting teacher pay (22nd by my count), and 33rd in the nation by average salary. What’s more, because the state government funds education so shabbily (we’re 46th in the nation) most teachers have to spend thousands of dollars of their own money to get the things they need to adequately equip their classrooms.
Considering the average starting salary for a teacher in the state of TN is around $32,400, by the time you take out taxes, school supplies and living expenses there isn’t all that much left for repaying student loans.
This is a choice the Tennessee legislature has made, to be the fourth lowest funder of education in the United States, which, in turn, impacts teacher salaries, equipment, as well as other resources in the educational system and student achievement. Now they are choosing to insert themselves in the personal finances of teachers and punish them if they can’t make it with the meager amount of money they appropriate to education.
At this point it should be fairly clear that the enemy is not what they’ve told us it was. Last year the boogey man was Teacher Unions. We were led to believe that the General Assembly, upon slaying that dragon, would actually start working on real things like increasing educational investment, or working to improve the quality of the overall school environment. But no, this bill directly attacks the teachers themselves, as individuals, not some disembodied third party.
The enemy of this GOP controlled legislature is Teachers and its time for Teachers to start fighting back.
The estate tax is one of those taxes you hear about a lot, but probably won’t ever have to pay, unless your family is fabulously wealthy. Even then, there are ways around it, and the people that most likely have to deal with it have the money to hire lawyers and planners to help minimize the exposure to the tax.
Nonetheless, this is an issue that has captured the talking-points of Republicans and some Democrats since the dawn of the Republican Revolution. Citing the harm that could befall family farms and others, the specter of the estate tax has been used as a means to scare the dickens out of people that will most likely never have to deal with it.
A quick look at the rules and regulations regarding the inheritance tax, as it is called in Tennessee, shows a graduated rate for estates of $1,000,000 and above. Basically, anything over $1.5m and you’re paying around 10% on the inheritance over $1,000,000. If you inherit an estate, in full or part, that is worth less than $1,000,000, you owe nothing in both state and federal estate taxes (though you may still have to file to prove that, consult a tax attorney to be sure).
That sounds like a lot of money, but the reality is, if your parent’s estate is worth $2m, and you have a sibling, you’re in the clear up to $2,040,000. You can do the math from there to see how many brothers, sisters, cousins, and ne’er-do-well hangers on you might need to avoid this tax depending on the size of your family’s estate.
One thing that no one really talks about is how many people the estate tax really impacts. I mean, we’ve been hearing about this thing for so long, and with such vitriol, that one might think its a whole bunch of people.
So I decided to call up the TN Dept. of Revenue and ask them just how many people actually pay the tax every year for the past three fiscal years. The individual on the other side of the phone didn’t have an immediate answer, so I gave him my email address and a couple of hours later, I had an answer.
The verdict: less than 1000 each year, or about .01% of the 6.8 million people in Tennessee every year.
Here’s how it breaks down.
|Average per Filer
The long hard reality is that people don’t pay anything on the first $1,000,000 they inherit. So if the average is about $112,000 per filer, each year, then these folks are inheriting more than $2.1 million dollars, which means they’re really only paying about 5% or less of their total inheritance in state taxes.
But we’re looking at the average here, when in reality we should probably be looking at the median. I didn’t ask what the median was. I’ll leave that up to some intrepid reporter that’s actually getting paid to research this stuff, but I’m pretty sure the median is going to be a lot less than this $112,000, with a few, very fortunate souls skewing the average with very large inheritances.
So who is really paying the tax…I mean, the bulk of it. Folks inheriting a whole lot more than most of us will ever make, see, or have any kind of access to.
This is billed as tax relief, and I suppose it is, on some level. But this is not the kind of tax relief that’s going to impact…well…anyone but the 1000 or less most fortunate people in Tennessee.
So, is this really tax relief? No, this is wealth relief.
I know I’ve been writing about the importance of local elections lately, despite appearances, this post is no different. No, Elizabeth Warren isn’t running against Bob Corker, she’s running against Scott Brown, or whomever gets the Republican nomination in Massachusetts, assuming, of course, that she gets the Democratic nomination in the state. I won’t be able to vote for Elizabeth Warren, because she seeks to represent a state that is around 1300 miles away. I support her run, and wish her luck. She’d be a great addition to the Senate in my view.
That said, I won’t be sending any money up to Massachusetts. I probably won’t be phone banking for her (I doubt Massachusettsans would appreciate my southern drawl), and I damn sure won’t be traveling up there to canvass for her. Not only can I not afford to do it financially, I can’t afford to do it electorally. There’s plenty to do here in Tennessee.
The whole reason this is happening is because of a local election, in Massachusetts. Scott Brown won the special election on that cold January day in 2010 by just under 110,000 votes, after the death of Ted Kennedy. Just over 2.2m votes were cast in that election. Counties in the state were evenly split, 7-7.
By contrast, in the 2008 election, Obama won the state overwhelmingly, carrying all 14 of the state’s counties. The 2008 election brought out nearly 900k more voters than the 2010 election, which really shouldn’t be all that surprising considering 2010 was a special election right after the New Year.
So what happened in this characteristically “blue” state that sent what should have been a very safe seat to the Republicans? It’s not about how many people showed up, but who.
There are over 4.19m registered voters in Massachusetts according to their Secretary of State. In 2008, 3.1m of them showed up or 73.52% of all registered voters. That’s a pretty darn high voter turnout. In 2010 only 2.2m, or 53.66% of voters made it to the polls which is about average, though above average for a special election. That 900k voter difference is very close to the difference between Obama and McCain in the 2008 election.
In fact, Scott Brown got more votes in 2010 than McCain did in 2008, but just by about 23k votes. That number is significant, not because it represents crossover votes, though there may be some of those, but because it gives us a little idea about voter mood, and activation.
Massachusetts has party designations. 36.65% of the state’s voters are Democrats, 11.34% are Republicans, leaving 51.44% undesignated. The number of registered Democrats alone would have been enough to beat Scott Brown, but, for whatever reason, they didn’t turn out.
There are likely a lot of reasons that happened, but I don’t claim to have a hill of beans worth of knowledge about Massachusetts elections, except that I know they go Democratic more often than not. Further, I don’t remember much about this election except for Scott Brown’s picture in GQ or whatever that was.
What I can tell you is that there aren’t enough Republicans in Massachusetts to win an election. There are almost enough Democrats alone to win any election. Throw in the folks who don’t take a designation, which by all accounts is probably mostly Democrats who don’t vote in primaries and Democrats should have an easy ride in the state.
So how did he win? Fire in the belly. Not his fire mind you, the Tea Party’s fire. Remember, this was one of the first, if not the first real election after the ascension of the Tea Party to the status of media darling.This is pretty high turnout. I’m sure, based on past elections, and special elections in particular, the Coakley campaign reckoned they’d need a little over a million votes to win. Guess what? They got that million votes. What they didn’t count on was an insurgent group of people who were mad as hell at government taking over their Medicare (which is still my favorite Tea Party sign).
So, Democrats didn’t turn out in the numbers they needed to, Republicans dragged people to the polls and won. I’m sure there’s more to this like Coakley’s popularity statewide and some other stuff that’s more important than I’m making it, but my real point is this. If Coakley had been shooting for 1.2m or 1.3m votes, she’d have won, pure and simple.
Looking back home to Tennessee, we’ve got a lot more challenges than they do in Massachusetts. We’ve got a Republican majority in the State legislature. We’ve got a Republican majority in our House delegation, and don’t get me started about our Senators. We’ve got a lot of work to do to close the gap for Democrats here, so I’m probably not going to spend a lot of time trying to help someone else 1300 miles away, even though it would be cool, and if I lived about 800 miles closer, I just might go out of my way to help.
And sure, Warren has shown herself to be a good progressive at the very least, and for that I support her, but I can’t give her anything more than moral support. If progressives or liberals in this state spend all our time building up progressives and liberals in other states, when will we get around to building up the few progressives and liberals that dare run for office here? Better still, how will we find more of them to run?
Truth be told, it’s not as though these people don’t exist. They’re out there, right here in Tennessee, and not just in the urban areas. They exist, but they don’t think they can win, and that is reinforced by folks who talk about how the state is this or that or the other and how no one is on “our” side, even though that “side” be ill defined.
Nope, I’ll be working to find these people and encourage them to get involved in campaigns, and network, and build the kind of support base that is required to even consider a serious run at anything. Maybe they’ll be candidates for County office. Maybe they’ll run for state office. Honestly, I don’t know, but I’ll be spending my time building what I can here, rather than exporting my time and money to Massachusetts for an election that will likely be nationalized anyway.
Does this mean I expect to see more people like me in the legislature in 2013? Nope. This takes more than one cycle to build. But if we don’t start building instead of complaining, it’ll never happen.
This first 100 has been busy folks, not so much for the Governor, who has been more than willing to sit idly by as the more firebrand members of his party run the state from the General Assembly.
In the mean time, the good Governor has been biding his time, coming up with press releases, like the one from yesterday, taking credit for things that as a candidate, he might want to distance himself from.
But now, with three years before he has to tap daddy’s war chest again for campaign cash, Haslam is trying to deal with being overshadowed, and look good doing it.
Here’s his list of “accomplishments”:
• Proposing a strategic legislative package that focuses on economic development through education reforms targeted at creating a well-educated workforce and ensuring an attractive business environment in Tennessee;
• Signing his tenure reform legislation into law;
• Announcing a $40 million public-private charter school growth fund;
• Proposing a balanced state budget that is $1.8 billion less than the previous year’s budget;
• Proposing a 1.6 percent salary increase for state employees after four years without one;
• Announcing a Jobs4TN plan that identifies four key strategies which include:
1. prioritizing the strategic recruitment of target industries;
2. assisting existing Tennessee businesses with expansion and competitiveness,
3. supporting regional and rural economic development strategies as well as investing in innovation and reducing business regulation;
4. Announcing a top-to-bottom review of the department of Economic and Community Development as a pilot process for other state departments and agencies to follow;
• And conducting a thorough review of state rules and regulations.
What he didn’t focus on, and for good reason, are the real consequences of these “actions”, some of which a new blogger on the block helpfully laid out for us.
But what Haslam leaves out is, perhaps, the most important part of his presser.
He conveniently forgets that he started the ball rolling with an Executive Order exempting himself and his cronies from income disclosures.
He ignores the fact that he, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, have allowed the Tennessee Ethics Commission the body that might hear claims against this executive order, has been has been without a quorum for the entirety of his 100 days, something that Democrats on the hill have managed to miss over and over again.
He’s pushing to keep people from holding corporations responsible for their actions, ultimately hurting the very people who have already been hurt, once again, in the name of job creation, an erroneous assertion at best.
He made it tougher for teachers to teach without worrying about getting let go for making too much, and makes it harder for teachers to negotiate a fair wage for their service…something that will most certainly result in fewer teachers overall, and the best of the best leaving the state for greener pastures.
Truth be told, aside from enriching his cronies, and hiding his wealth, Haslam hasn’t done much. The heavy lifting has been done by the legislature, who is pushing the envelope even further than he’s comfortable with. This may be why he’s ready for them to head to the house.
At the end of the day, Gov. Haslam has fully ensconced himself as the Gubernatorial Spokesmodel, rather than the Chief Executive of the state. Until he decides to do more than roll over for the more radical elements in his party, he’ll continue to be nothing more than that.
This morning at 10:30 the Tennessee House Conservation Subcommittee takes up HB0291/SB0577, a bill that would prohibit surface mining on mountains higher than 2000 ft. above sea level. The contact information for all the legislators on this committee can be found below. I also added in the Senate Committee members that will be hearing the bill on Wednesday. Shoot all of them a note or make a call to their office. Tell your legislators that Tennessee’s natural beauty is one of our greatest assets and we need to do everything we can to preserve it.
This isn’t going to happen on its own. If this bill is to become law, we’ve got to show our support. There are some pretty powerful people that have opposed this in the past. Not least among them, current Lt. Governor, Ron Ramsey. As Newschannel 5 reported last March, the Lt. Governor exerted some pressure on the former sponsor of the bill.
Clip is about 5 min long, with an ad at the beginning.
Don’t let him stop this one. Contact the legislators below and tell them you support the passage of HB0291/SB0577.
Conservation Subcommittee – Tuesday, March 29th, 10:30am, Room HHR30
David Hawk – Phone (615) 741-7482 – email
Ron Lollar – Phone (615) 741-7084 – email
Richard Floyd – Phone (615) 741-2746 – email
Sheila Butt – Phone: (615) 741-3005 – email
Charles Curtiss – Phone (615) 741-1963 – email
Brenda Gilmore – Phone (615) 741-1997 – email
Andy Holt – Phone (615) 741-7847 – email
Mike Kernell – Phone (615) 741-3726 – email
Pat Marsh – Phone (615) 741-6824 – email
Michael McDonald – Phone (615) 741-1980 – email – Bill Sponsor
Frank Nicely – Phone (615) 741-4419 – email
Art Swann – Phone (615) 741-5481 – email
John Tidwell – Phone (615) 741-7098 – email
Committee Meeting – Wednesday, March 30, 3:30PM – Room 12 LP
Steve Southerland – Phone (615) 741-3851 – email
Jack Johnson – Phone (615) 741-2495 – email
Jim Summerville – Phone (615) 741-4499 – email
Mike Bell – Phone (615) 741-1946 – email
Mike Faulk – Phone (615) 741-2061 – email
Roy Herron – Phone (615) 741-4576 – email
Beverly Marrero – Phone (615) 741-9128 – email
Kerry Roberts – Phone (615) 741-1999 – email
Eric Stewart – Phone (615) 741-6694 – email – Bill Sponsor