On Friday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy and special guest Ben Cunnigham – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy and Cunningham talked about Cunningham’s recent Tweets stating that he would hold John Cooper accountable to his implied commitments to the reallocation of Davidson County funds and not raising property taxes.
Nearing the end of the segment, the men discussed how David Briley is running a campaign on raising taxes while Cooper is positioning himself as being one of fiscal conservatism.
Leahy: Our guest host in the studio today, my long-time friend Ben Cunningham. Ben we’re going to talk about desperate David.
Cunningham: He is desperate.
Leahy: He sees the polls. Probably going to be a crushing defeat. The very very very bad Briley (Cunningham laughs) about to lose to the very very bad John Cooper. But here’s the thing, you try and look at these things and when you’re in the media you have a few simple roles. We talked about this in the last segment.
One of the rules in social media and any communications is, you never punch down. You always punch up. So in that one, you actually had somebody punch down at you and you punched back up at them. You’re winning that exchange. Mayor Briley and you have had some exchanges? Tell us about that.
Cunningham: We actually responded to, I don’t have the tweets in front of me, but I think we, the Nashville Tea Party Twitter account responded to Cooper and said, “Look, we’re going to hold you accountable.”
Leahy: To Cooper.
Cunningham: To Cooper.
Leahy: Not to Briley.
Leahy: The very very bad Cooper.
Cunningham: That’s right. I’ve got to keep up with this. My verys. And I said, “Look, we’re going to hold you accountable. You essentially said in the debates that you are going to get the revenue from other sources. Like the convention center and other tourism sources. Some unnamed. You’re going to keep a property tax off the table.” And that’s what he has very explicitly implied in the debates.
Leahy: He’s been implied but no specifically committed too?
Cunningham: I would say he’s basically committed to it in terms of what I have heard. He said we’re not going to have a property tax and property tax hike. Now I’m sure they’re referring to next year and that’s kind of the perspective right now.
Leahy: Got it.
Cunningham: In the tweet, I said, “You have committed to doing this. You committed to getting revenue from other sources. You committed to not raising property taxes next year and we’re going to hold you to this.”
Cunningham: We’re going to hold you accountable. We’re going to watching you next year. There is tremendous pressure for a property tax increase next year. It is like a teapot boiling on the stove. It’s whistling and it’s about to blow the top.
So we as taxpayers have got to be watching next year. That was the essence of the Tweet. Well, Mayor Briley came back and responded saying, “Well look at this. John Coopers getting the support of the Tea Party.” (Cunningham laughs)
Leahy: How does he say John Coopers getting the support of the Tea Party when all you were saying is…
Cunningham: Obviously it’s a complete and total desperate David move to try and tie John Cooper with the Tea Party. To try to get some little negative cooties on him during the campaign. It was ridiculous. So we came back and said, “Look, the only thing we support is low taxes and smaller government.” And by the way, Mayor Briley, because Mayor Briley has said he is open to a property tax increase next year.
When desperate David says during a campaign when he’s desperate for votes. When he says, “I am open to a property tax increase next year.” The translation is, “As soon as I get back in office we’re going to start putting together a budget with a property tax increase in it.” So I said in the Tweet, “Alright, Mayor Briley.
Let us know before the taxpayers of Davidson county go to the polls. Let us know! Is it going to be a 10% property tax increase next year? 15% or 20%? Well, he hasn’t responded to the Tweet. But it is the desperation move on his part. Obviously, the polls are running badly badly against him. But I think it is a valid point.
He says he is open to a property tax increase. That is Mayor speak campaign speak for you better watch out because I’m coming for a property rate increase next year. I think we have at least a fighting chance with Cooper to hold him to his word and say, “Look, you get the revenue from other sources.
You be fiscally conservative. That’s his whole campaign John Cooper has talked about. Being fiscally conservative. He has a blue-ribbon committee to look at finances. So we’ere going to hold him to it and say, “Look, you better not even think about a property tax increase next year.”
That is Tennessee’s signature issue and that’s why so many people are moving here. We don’t have an income tax. I haven’t seen the latest tax foundation numbers. But typically, when they look at total local and state tax burden as a percent of personal income. That’s kind of the one I use because I think it’s the best measure.
Cunningham: Tennessee is 46-47-48.
Leahy: Low taxes.
Cunningham: We are consistently low taxes.
Leahy: Except in Nashville apparently.
Cunningham: Except in Nashville. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: You know shockingly, people who are making money are leaving Nashville. Shockingly.
Cunningham: Oh yeah. Moving to the donut counties.
Leahy: And the people that are coming in are from Chicago. Man bun wearing Millenials and gen Zer’s.
Cunningham: Well, one thing we did find when we got the charter amendment passed in 2006, of course, that was before the Tea Party, but we had a charter amendment passed in 2006 and we put a cap on property tax rates. It still was a very blue county then. 77% of Davidson county voters voted for that cap.
Leahy: Cap on property tax increases.
Cunningham: And it means that any Mayor that comes into office if they wanted to raise property taxes they still couldn’t raise it above that cap. But it still gives them too much leeway. We don’t want any property tax increase. In a very blue county, Democrats talk a good game about growing the size of government.
That’s the wonderful thing about sales taxes and property taxes. They’re broad-based and everybody pays them. And these liberals can’t run for cover like they can from the income tax and say, “Just tax the millionaires. Just tax those rich people.”
Well in Tennessee we have structured taxes without an income tax which is wonderful because our taxes are broad-based. And everybody has to come out from behind their hiding places and declare themselves because taxes affect everybody. The Democrats can’t run from that. Our tax structure is really protecting us here in Tennessee.
Leahy: So basically, Mayor Briley is saying, “I’m going to raise your property taxes.”
Cunningham: When you say I’m open to a property tax increase and you’re in the middle of a campaign, watch out!
Leahy: Now John Cooper has said I’m not going to raise property taxes.
Cunningham: He said I’m going to get the revenue from other sources. We’ve got excess revenue in the convention center. We’ve got a bunch of money coming in from tourists. We can reallocate. That’s been his story. We want to make sure he sticks to it.
Leahy: That story I think there’s probably some elements of possible truth there. (Leahy chuckles)
Cunningham: Yeah. But you know in government you ever get them to cut spending is by saying you’re not going to get any more money. That’s the only time they will do it.
Leahy: Well, you know I think that desperate David has decided his path to re-election is raising the taxes of voter. I don’t know. Ben, that seems to me like to be a bad plan. (Laughter)
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Photo “David Briley” by David Briley. Background Photo “Tea Party Rally” by Wispolitics.com. CC BY 2.0.