Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The 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. – Leahy was joined on the line during the program’s second hour by Tennessee state Senator Kerry Roberts.
At the top of the third hour, Roberts weighed on what he thought April revenues would bring in for Tennessee while noting that consumer confidence has not waned during the virus crisis with Walmart and Lowe’s parking lots remaining full. He added that it will depend upon the two buckets of people that will either remain home or venture out.
Leahy: We are joined now by our good friend state Senator Kerry Roberts. Kerry, so a big question for me is now that the governor has not gone on to extend his order to basically safer at home non-essential business shut down. So May 1. That’s Friday. Basically every business in the state apparently can reopen following social distancing guidelines in 89 of the counties.
Here in Middle Tennessee the only county that’s going to be under some social distancing requirements starting May the first will be Davidson County. I don’t know how long it will take for mayor Cooper to open up Nashville.
But putting that aside, what is it going to look like if all of the counties in Middle Tennessee except for Davidson County start opening up their restaurants starting a week from Friday. And right now we have 7,200 cases. We’ve had 152 deaths. A month from today or a month from May the first, what’s it going to look like here in Tennessee? How many cases do you think we’ll have?
Roberts: Well, it’s going to vary widely depending on what the experience of the county has already been. If you have a county that’s had very little experience with COVID-19 they’re going to go back to business as usual pretty quickly. Could we see a spike in some cases? That’s always a possibility.
There are going to be people who are ready to go. There are going to be people who air on the side of caution or are medically fragile, or who are elderly and want to stay at home. In some instances, they need to continue to stay at home. So that’s kind of the two big buckets of people. The ones who can’t wait to get out of the house and the ones who think they are better off to stay in. I think we just need to respect that decision.
The heart of this is, what is the role of choice? What is the right of somebody to choose and the right to take risks? Of course, as we know once the government starts making choices for people they are very reluctant to give that choice back to people which is why part of the reason I’m glad to see this stay-at-home order is not being extended.
The real test is going to be what it does to small businesses. Are customers going to return? Are customers going to spend? Are they going to have to lay people off or furlough people because they don’t have the business? Have people to move to online shopping or in the case of restaurants’ food delivery? So they are reluctant to go back into a small business.
And of course, there’s going to be an impact on large businesses and large offices. How do you handle bringing 500 people back into an office? Do you do it in shifts? Do you rotate people? Do you have half one day and half the next day? And then of course, how is this going to affect the state of Tennessee. We are a consumption-driven state government in that we don’t have a state income tax it’s done by sales tax. So we need people to pay sales taxes.
Leahy: Did you see the report in The Tennessee Star that Laura Baigert had that basically said that revenues in the state of Tennessee were up in March beyond projections?
Roberts: That was in March. The real test I think is April. Yeah, I did see that report. It was up like 60 million or something like that?
Leahy: Yeah. Yeah.
Roberts: I think what’s going to be really interesting is what happens over the next couple of months because of the lag and what we’re actually reporting.
Leahy: A good part of March was covered by these stay at home restrictions right? At least a week I think?
Roberts: So you are more accurate numbers come when sales tax is reported on the 20th of the month. So on March 20, you’re reporting your sales tax collections from February. April 20 if you’re reporting your sale tax collections in March. As you move forward sometimes those numbers get changed around.
Leahy: So what’s your guess that the April numbers would be in terms of revenues?
Roberts: You know, (Scoffs) judging by what Walmart and Lowes looked like…
Roberts: Now this is a little bit deceptive. The parking lots were very full but I suspect they were not turning people over as quickly because of the queue that you would have in the checkout lines. I don’t know if they were checking people out any faster or any slower.
You know with restaurants we talk about turning tables. Walmart thinks in terms of how many people get in and out of there in a day. I don’t know what their customer turn looked like.
Roberts: Just judging from the parking lot, lots of consuming going on there.
Listen to the third hour here:
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