FRANKLIN, Tennessee–Early voting on the proposed Williamson County sales tax increase referendum ended on Thursday, and poll workers say turnout is down so far, ending with a little more than 6,000 of the county’s estimated 130,000 registered voters casting their ballot during the two week period.
As a point of comparison, 105,000 Williamson County voters cast their ballots in the 2016 Presidential Election. President Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton in the county that election, 65 percent to 30 percent.
The Tennessee Star reported when early voting began on January 17 that a single issue is on the ballot, “a proposal that would increase the county’s contribution to the state sales tax by a hefty 22 percent resulting is a new tax rate of 2.75 percent:”
Shall Resolution No. 11-17-15, passed by the Williamson County Commission on November 13, 2017 published in the Tennessean, Williamson A.M., newspapers of general circulations, and as authorized by and be levied and collected pursuant to the Retailer’s Sales Tax Act and the 1963 Local Option Revenue Act under Title 67, chapter 6, Tennessee Code Annotated, which will increase the local option sales and use tax rate from 2.25% to 2.75% become operative?
“County officials and some business leaders support the measure and say the “modest” hike will generate about $60 million over three years. The money is slated to retire outstanding debt from new school construction,” The Star reported.
But many conservatives in the county oppose the sales tax increase.
“Raising the sales tax is a Band-Aid and is not a real solution nor does it address the grown-up conversation we need to have in the County about who pays for growth long term,” Williamson County GOP Debbie Deaver told The Star.
“Suggesting you have a tax revenue problem then spending $140,000 on a special election almost 90 days prior to a general election seems counter-intuitive and an example of why Republicans typically oppose tax increases,” Deaver added.
The unusual decision by the Williamson County Commission to hold the single issue referendum in the dead of winter provides a significant advantage to the well funded coalition of groups that want to see the sales tax increase pass. One veteran Tennessee Republican political operative tells The Star that the sales tax increase would almost certainly be defeated if the vote had been held as part of the August 2018 primary in which statewide party nominations are determined because they turnout then would be much higher.
Supporters of the sales tax increase, such as the National Association of REALTORS, have flooded Williamson County voters with mailers like this one, which arrived in many local residences today.