On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed his weekly regular guest and all-star panelist Tennessee state Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield.)
During the third hour, Roberts talked about how important it was for people to come together in their communities and help one another while still adhering to the recommended precautions. He cautioned that we would see small businesses and American families struggle and how an official announcement by Governor Lee is needed.
Leahy: We are joined by our very good friend and all-star panelist state Senator Kerry Roberts. The breaking national news here is related that I just saw on Instapundit. Kerry, Regal Cinemas closing all US theaters due to coronavirus.
Roberts: We heard last night they were going to encourage social distancing at one of the theater chains and asked people not to sit close to each other. I laughed. Last time I looked at movies there was nobody in the theater. (Leahy laughs) I don’t know how Hollywood is staying in business because when you go to the theaters you don’t see a lot of people there. Not surprised at all.
Leahy: There were a lot of things you wanted to talk about, and we didn’t have time in our prior segment. (Roberts laughs) It’s all yours!
Roberts: Let me just say I’ve got a lot of half-finished thoughts and for somebody that has to run for office I can see the direct mail pieces with my unfinished thoughts. (Leahy chuckles) Give me just a second and let me wrap this up in sequence.
First of all, you’ve got to have a healthy skepticism about anything that comes along. Is this as bad as people are saying it is? What are the voices you are hearing? What are their qualifications? What’s the larger context of what people said? When you put the health community in charge, then you can put the businesses at risk.
When you put the business community in charge then you put the health of people at risk. You’ve got to find that balance. But in this case, the health community has made its point. And Dr. Perlin of HCA in his discussion yesterday that Laura Baigert reported on The Tennessee Star. He absolutely nailed it.
The actions that you take now are going to look extreme. They are going to look like we are overreacting. But later on, it’s probably going to look like those actions were inadequate. We’re going to know a whole lot more in the next two to eight weeks.
The bottom line is that there is going to be devastating or a negative and I’m going to use the word devastating but that’s my opinion impact on our economy. This is going to slide us into a recession so the federal and the state government need to act quickly, or we’re otherwise going to lose economically viable businesses to this thing.
And we’re going to have people have a severe impact on their household budget. To that extent, we need to have tax relief whether that’s in the form of eliminating the tax or suspending the tax. Whatever the case might be.
We need to take advantage of the fact that we do have a good rainy day fund in Tennessee. It will go quickly. That money will be gone before you know it. We also need to take advantage of the unspent TAN of money that we have in Tennessee. The temporary assistance for needy families.
And finally, a very big piece of this puzzle is we need everybody to come together. They are going to be people who are negatively affected by this. And there will be people who do well with this.
Whether it’s a church group or a community group we’ve got to look out for our friends and neighbors. Our church group people and church family. We’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on in the lives, households, and small businesses of other people. And we need to see what we can do to help. This is a big problem.
We’ve got to take it seriously. We’ve got to respond to it. If we do the right things, hopefully, we can lessen the economic impact two months from now or whenever that might be. We’ve seen this drop in our economy, and we will see it start to come back.
Leahy: (Asks people to call into the show with questions) Kerry the most important and most powerful person in the state right now in this matter is Gov. Bill Lee. And how is he communicating to the Tennessee General Assembly? How is that process working?
How are your ideas in the Tennessee General Assembly communicated to the governor who has the executive authority to take a wide range of actions right now that can limit the spread of this coronavirus?
Roberts: First of all I think the governor is from my perspective, has done a good job in how he’s handling this. He is I just mentioned before we’ve got to sift through all of the people whispering in your ear and you’ve got to make a decision.
You’ve got to make a decision. And so he is the guy that’s on the hot seat. So he takes all the data and all the information that’s provided to him, and he makes a decision. On the one hand, you don’t want to declare Marshall law right?
We’ve seen some of these broad sweeping powers that people are invoking. You want to let people be people and do the right thing. On the other hand, you want to protect. It’s like we say, the government’s job is not to protect me against me.
It’s to protect my liberty and to protect my freedom. He’s got a tough balance there. When you come along and you make a decision that you are going to forbid somebody to do businesses. You are right. Under a health policy or health department issuing that order, they can shut businesses down, and they can do it legally.
At what point in time do you take that step? So far he’s simply tapped it at the suggestion level. Which I’m comfortable with. As far as the other activities. Some of this stuff they can do by executive order. Some of it has to be done legislatively.
The problem is you can’t do some of this stuff fast enough. If you are a small business right now and you’ve gone now a week without business or some other business the cash flow crunch is going to hit you now.
Roberts: Now. Now. You know what? Your rent is due on April first. And you are already thinking. You’ve heard this before. People have no idea how many families in America are one paycheck away from not making it right?
There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck and that’s going to have a devastating impact on them. That’s also true of a lot of small businesses. What were my sales today? What bills can I pay tomorrow?
I’ve been there. I’ve been one of the small business owners before. It’s going to hurt when the first of the month rolls around. Sales tax payments are due on the 20th. And that’s going to hurt. There are going to be people that need to be suspended. (Inaudible talk)
Leahy: Let me just stop for a moment. That’s very interesting what you just said state Senator Kerry Roberts. Sales tax payments from retail businesses are due on the 20th.
Leahy: OK. So, here we are, it’s March 17. You just said there may be an announcement or you suspect there may be an announcement?
Roberts: No, no, no. I’m just saying there needs to be one at some point.
Leahy: OK. I stand corrected. There needs to be an announcement. Now it would seem to me that this ought to be communicated as something for the governor to consider. Will you be meeting with him shortly. (Chuckles)
Roberts: No. (Leahy laughs) I’m just sitting here telling you. If I’m sitting here thinking this, then there’s a whole lot of people thinking this. I don’t get any genius award.
Leahy: I gotcha.
Roberts: Here is the thing, you’ve got to roll things out in a timely manner. And every day you ask yourself do we need to do a little bit more. And if we do, let’s do it. We’ll see what the announcements today are.
Listen to the full third hour:
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