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 in the studio by Tennessee state Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield).
During the second hour, Roberts and Leahy discussed Metro Nashville’s reluctance to cut state costs while marveling at the insensitivity of Mayor John Cooper’s ill-timed property tax increase proposal.
Leahy: It’s Studio Freedom Week! We have in studio with us for the first time in two and half months our good friend state Senator Kerry Roberts. Good morning Kerry.
Roberts: Good morning! I’m very glad to be back with you. It’s amazing how everything in Nashville is kind of like a ghost town this morning driving in. I got here 10 minutes faster than it would normally take.
Leahy: Well, that’s a plus.
Roberts: It is a plus. But they are not mowing the grass in Nashville. Is that a budget cut?
Leahy: Let’s talk about this.
Roberts: Are they afraid they are going to get COVID-19 from being outside? Why are they not mowing the grass in Nashville?
Leahy: Does mowing the grass increase the chances of COVID-19? I think not!
Roberts: I’m not sure. It doesn’t look like the Nashville that I knew months ago is gone.
Leahy: We’ll have to ask Mayor John Cooper why they are not mowing the grass in the public areas of Nashville.
Roberts: I thought he was against letting anybody go. And that’s why he needed the 32% property tax increase.
Leahy: Hard to say. Mayor Cooper who was elected back in September apparently through ambassadors we’ve been asking him to come on the program. You know we are nice here. But we do call him a left-wing progressive power-hungry mayor. (Roberts chuckles) Which he is. But we are nice. We are polite. We say it with a smile. He’s yet to come on the program.
Roberts: Just the insensitivity and the timing of it all. How do you announce a 32% property tax proposed tax increase when you have people recovering from a tornado and the pandemic that hit with people out of work.
Roberts: So you don’t have to cut any government programs? That is so stainly tone-deaf to me it’s amazing.
Leahy: Yes. He’s actually increasing the budget in Metro Nashville Davidson County by five percent. While everybody else is losing their job and claiming unemployment.
Leahy: It just doesn’t seem to make sense. Now, I will say this, in another state this will be shocking to you a Democratic governor named John Bel Edwards of Louisiana is actually proposing cuts.
(Edwards clip plays)
There will be 2 different cuts for most state agencies including my office and administration and also to the judiciary, the legislature, and various statewide led officials. There will be about 80 million dollars in cuts including significant cuts to the Department of Health but they won’t include Medicaid or other optional services.
Leahy: John Bel Edwards a Democrat was re-elected barely back in November as governor for another four-year term. Louisiana has been harder hit than Tennessee but he’s going to cut the state budget. I don’t know what the city of New Orleans is doing but it seems to me that’s logical. Mayor Cooper is not doing that. It’s illogical. It would seem to me. It’s progressive logic I suppose.
Roberts: I’m speechless.
Leahy: I know. What do you say to that? Now the big news, because Tennessee has been historically one of the most well-managed states fiscally the state government is in better shape but revenues are down.
Roberts: Yes. Down significantly.
Leahy: Down significantly and not likely to go up a great deal in the next few months. Tell us what the state legislature is going to be doing about this. Are they going to be back in session soon? What’s going to be happening?
Roberts: Let me give you some encouraging news.
Leahy: Oh please.
Roberts: So when we talk about the revenue reports which is a nice way of saying here’s your tax money that we collected. (Leahy laughs) you know because politicians call it revenue.
Leahy: We call it taxes that you citizens paid us. Mostly its sales tax.
Roberts: Sales tax, franchise, and excise we still have the haul income tax that’s being phased out.
Leahy: It’s declining. The haul income taxes on interest income.
Roberts: It’s on interest income that we’ve been phasing out because a lot of rich people flee Tennessee. They go to Florida.
Leahy: We want those rich people here.
Roberts: We want them here because they invest in businesses. They are the guys that you go to church with who’s got a lot of money and you’re trying to start a business.
Leahy: They have capital.
Roberts: That’s right. And then they move to Florida they don’t go to church with you anymore. You know? They are not in the same social circles you are anymore.
Leahy: Florida, of course, has no state income tax. A good thing.
Leahy: And they have no haul income tax. That haul income tax is going to be phased out completely next year?
Roberts: Or two more. Gosh, I don’t know. I’m having a brain cramp here. It’s going to be very quick.
Leahy: If you are by the way a high net worth individual listening to us and you don’t live in Tennessee and you are thinking about moving to Tennessee, it’s time to move.
Roberts: It’s time to move. Wait, only if you vote Republican. I think we’ve invited enough liberals to Tennessee and we are paying the price for it.
Leahy: I think that is an excellent caveat. (Laughter) Don’t bring your Chicago, Illinois big government let’s go bankrupt at the state level values to Tennessee.
Roberts: There ought to be an unwritten rule that the Economic and Community Development are going to research the voting records. It’s grandma’s sales tax dollars that pay for the Amazons and the Alliance Bernsteins of the world then tell us that we’re all a bunch of homophobic, trans-phobic, and racists.
Leahy: Bad guys.
Roberts: As if we just bounced off the turnip truck Tennesseans.
Leahy: Here’s the perfect law Kerry. You know how you go into a restaurant and they are taking your temperature now with these little laser things. Well, they do. I’ve been to a restaurant. They take your temperature and if you have a temperature above the normal range they don’t let you in. All we need simply is a little laser thing and if someone is coming in from another state we just do a little laser and check their voting history and who’ve they’ve voted for and the liberals can’t come in. (Laughs)
Roberts: Maybe we should just have the Bill Gates ID whatever thing then we can scan them at the border. You asked about Nashville’s budget. Here’s a bit of good news.
Leahy: All of our listeners, by the way, are sitting there thinking I’ve had so much bad news for two and a half months. Give me some good news.
Roberts: The good news is that despite this huge number of Tennessee’s revenue being down in March. It’s confusing because it’s April numbers that they’ve released but it represents March collections. Down dramatically but when you break it down sales tax was only down about six percent.
Leahy: That’s not too bad.
Roberts: It was down dramatically because franchise and excise were pushed back. But when you break it down sales tax was only down about six percent. Ostensibly that’s money that will come back.
Leahy: Just moving the timeline.
Roberts: But I’m not surprised because even though we have these local businesses that got unconstitutionally, in my opinion, forced to close. While Walmart was thriving.
Leahy: You’re getting a thumbs up from me on the unconstitutionally forced to close angle. All of this is being reported by our new commissioner of finance, Butch Eley who was the former COO of the state and been promoted I guess. Butch is a good friend of mine and a very very good guy. So anything that he gives us you can take it to the bank.
Roberts: I didn’t know that you had a friendship with Butch. He is a really good guy.
Leahy: He’s a great guy.
Roberts: You know he got picked on when he first got hired because in his political career he’s worked with Democrats before. But I’ve found him to be very receptive and open.
Leahy: Would you like to know the rest of the story?
Roberts: Yeah sure.
Leahy: We went to church together for many many years at Woodmont Hills Church of Christ. It’s now Woodmont Hills a Church of Christ now in Franklin. On Franklin Road here in Nashville. We don’t attend there now.
Roberts: That’s where my wife and I met.
Leahy: When it was Ashwood?
Roberts: When it was Ashwood. I had no idea.
Leahy: You discover these things. I talk to Rubble what a great guy.
Roberts: We both have a Church of Christ background.
Leahy: I converted when I got married. And I’m very happy that I did. So we’ve known each other from church. I taught a long time ago as an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Belmont and he was a student there. Top student. Smart guy. The Lee administration is very fortunate to have Butch Eley, my good friend there.
Roberts: But he went to Belmont.
Roberts: I don’t know as a Lipscomb guy I’m not sure about that.
Leahy: He got his MBA there. I don’t remember where he did his undergraduate.
Roberts: Well, he’s a good guy and I think it was a good move to put him in.
Leahy: I agree. We could elaborate on some other appointments here that aren’t quite as superlative but we won’t because we’re going to be on a positive note Kerry.
Roberts: It’s going to last through the break (Leahy laughs) but there are no promises when we get back.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Background Photo “Tennessee General Assembly” by the Tennessee General Assembly.