More Than 500 Exemptions Protect Companies Getting Secret Taxpayer-Funded Deals, AFP-Tennessee Says

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FRANKLIN — There are companies in Tennessee have accepted government incentives.

The taxpayers who had to pay for it aren’t allowed to know about most, if not all the details because of a series of exemptions, at least 538 at the state level.

This, according to members of Americans For Prosperity – Tennessee, who hosted their 2019 Legislative Preview Thursday at their Franklin headquarters.

AFP members showcased their priorities for the coming legislative session in Nashville.

State Rep. Brandon Ogles, Republican from Franklin (left) and Tori Venable, AFP-Tennessee State Director (right).

Transparency, according to literature AFP organizers released Thursday, “is for the government and privacy is for the people.” That’s why AFP members said they will support what is known as the Fairness Accountability and Clarity in Tax Subsidies Act. AFP members said this bill “will lift the veil on tax incentives” and provide much needed accountability and transparency.

“We believe that if government passes out your tax dollars then you should be aware of it. They should be held accountable so that if a business says they’ll bring 5,000 jobs and they only bring 500 jobs then they will not actually get that full payout,” said AFP-Tennessee State Director Tori Venable.

“We are an income tax-free state. We would like to see the tax rates lowered overall for every business, for every individual, to be that recruiting mechanism instead of government picking winners and losers. With transparency, there are certain areas of the state seeing a lot more funding like Nashville versus other rural areas that may perhaps need some additional economic development.”

According to its Facebook page, AFP-Tennessee is a statewide grassroots organization of 20,000 members who want to advance every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity and return government to its constitutional limits.

Other priorities for AFP-Tennessee in 2019 include:

• Expanding access to Education Savings Accounts that will provide students with more opportunity and parents with more freedom to choose the education that is best for their child. Unlike vouchers, AFP said, parents can use ESAs in conjunction with public schools for tutoring services, at private or charter schools, or for homeschool curriculums.

• Legislation that ends the Certificate of Need — a government regulation that requires health care providers show there is a need for services in an area before receiving permission to operate. AFP-Tennessee says allowing the free market to work and expanding scope of practice will deliver lower costs, better services, and greater access to health care.

• Repealing an amusement tax, which is an additional tax on gyms under 15,000 square feet. Tennessee is historically one of the worst states in the nation for health. This tax unfairly targets small businesses helping people achieve their health goals, AFP said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.

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