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. – host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line.
During the first hour, Roberts outlined the background and reasoning for the new launch of the Taxpayer Protection Act citing the adjustments that needed to be made to appease the courts. He added that the petition now includes six amendments all of which must be denied in order for there not to be a vote, therefore, making it more difficult to be kept off the ballot.
Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line by our very good friend and the most persistent man in Tennessee, attorney Jim Roberts. Good morning, Jim.
Roberts: Good morning to you.
Leahy: Well, well, well, I have gone to the website. You can get there at the number 4goodgovernment.com or just go to your search engine and plugin Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act and lo and behold there’s another petition there.
Roberts: That’s right.
Leahy: Give us a little bit of background on how we got to this point and then we’ll talk about what’s in this petition.
Roberts: Absolutely. As you know Metro Council and the mayor rammed through a 34 percent to 37 percent property tax increase last year. A lot of people were very unhappy about that and we began a charter amendment to amend the Metropolitan Charter to prevent those sort of dramatic massive increases in property taxes.
Surprisingly the Metro Government sued its citizens to keep that off the ballot and made a lot of dishonest arguments and sort of typical unfortunate government for our actions. And they were able even though 27,000 voters signed a petition asking for this to be placed on the ballot. Metro just refused. And so we litigated this.
And there was a decision made that we could litigate this to the court system for years and probably win and then it’ll be three years from now or we could just start over and do a new petition and make some changes and make some corrections that Metro said we had to make and then launch it again. So last week we started mailing out petitions to Davidson County voters and there’s going to be about 220,000 in the mail probably by the end of today.
Leahy: Wow! And then so how many signatures do you need and when do you need them to go through the process again so you can get this on the ballot?
Roberts: We’re going to need about 33,000 valid signatures. And that’s based on the last election, which was the presidential election where about 330,000 people voted. We have to get 10 percent of that. We’re not too worried because last time we had 27,000 signatures with really I mean people were so mad they came in pretty quickly. Our hopeful turn-in date is March 8. So we’ve got about a month to do this and that’s why we’re sending out more. Last time we didn’t send out anywhere near 200,000 plus.
Leahy: And in addition, anyone listening to this program right now can download the petition sign it, and mail it. That’s correct right?
Roberts: Absolutely, all I would ask of one thing. I mean help us out if you’re really want to roll back this property tax and that’s what it does. One of the things we litigated was that you couldn’t change the tax during the current year. And so we’re just going to roll it back. This year when the budget is brought forward it’ll roll it back to the 2019 race.
I would ask you, folks, to please download it and get ten of your Davidson County voter friends to sign it. We really need to get these signatures in. I mean, I appreciate it when people just didn’t mail it back. But what’s really helpful is if you go to your neighbors and say are you in favor of this tax? Are you in favor of some of the other ideas that this ballot initiative promotes? Get them to sign it and mail it in the sooner the better.
Leahy: That’s very good. A lot of our listeners are frustrated the the way government is not listening to their desires. I think this 34 percent property tax increase at the Metro Council passed is perhaps the most egregious and most local and example of that. Go to 4goodgovernment.com, if you want to do that and you can download the petition. I’m looking at it right now. Download it. Print it out. And like Jim says, print 10 out and one for yourself. And then for your friends, right?
Roberts: That’s right. That’s right. And it does more than just roll back the property tax. And part of what you said is absolutely right. What happened was that the Metro Council and the mayor thought that we were going to have a lower property tax rate. So they did two things. They just assumed the rates are going to be lower and they said let’s spend a lot more money and we’ll make up the difference for the large massive tax increase.
It turned out property tax revenues didn’t decline last year. The tax was never needed. And when it came time to talk about well, maybe we should adjust the budget to reflect the fact that we have all this extra money not spend it, that was just laughed out of the council. They had no intention of reducing the rate. In fact, I think it was announced yesterday that they may be raising the rate again this year.
Leahy: Yeah, I saw that. Give government controlled by Democrats and inch and they’ll take a mile and they’ll never cut taxes. They always want to spend more and more and more. And what they’re spending it on is more than a little bit crazy. I want to go back to the mechanics of this a little bit Jim. So I’m looking at the petition. It says please sign, fold, and then mail ASAP no later than Friday, March 5, 2021.
We hope to file the petitions with the Metro Clerk on Monday, March 8, 2021. Let me just read the beginning and then a little bit at the end and we’ll talk about the first of these six separate amendments. The undersigned Davidson County voters propose the following six amendments to the Metropolitan Charter as written in italics to be voted on by the citizens on May 28, 2021, or June 14, 2021, whichever is earlier as permitted by Metro Charter section 19 .01.
And by the way on Election Day the citizens shall vote on the foregoing six separate amendments. I won’t go into all six right now, but let me go with the main one. We’ll get into the other proposals in the next segment. Right now number one, property taxes add to article 6 paragraph 5 property tax rates shall not increase more than 3 percent per fiscal year upon enactment without a voter referendum for fiscal years 2021 to 2022. And 2022 to 2023 the property tax rates shall revert to the fiscal year 2019 to 2020 tax rates or lower if required by law the provisions of the amendment are severable. That’s it. That’s the first and most important of these six. Comment on that if you would a little bit Jim.
Roberts: Absolutely. I understand that that’s a little bit technical language but understand that this is the law and so you need to use the law sometimes technically. What this does is really two things. It says we’re going to go back to the pre massive 34 percent tax rate time period. We’re gonna go back to 2019. We’re going to reset the rates there. And then going forward the Metro Council mayor can only raise taxes three percent a year.
That’s to track inflation unless they go to the voters and explain it and get voter approval. And so that allowed the government to grow slowly along with inflation in a rational way and that will keep there being artificially low taxes for a couple of years and then a big massive jump in taxes. It makes for better stewardship of our government.
One of the little tricky things that you’re not familiar with in Davidson County is when property appraisals go up tax rates go down. And so one of the tricks that Metro has done in the past is to raise the appraisal rates and the values of your homes and then push the rate down and claim They were lowering tax rates. That’s really just a joke. The tax rates are supposed to be revenue-neutral. Meaning that when the values go up the rates go down. So the whole point here is to keep Metro from growing faster than inflation without the people having a voice.
Leahy: Let’s walk through the timeline on how this works. You submit it to the Metro clerk let’s say if all goes well, you’ll probably have well over 33,000. If all goes well. And it goes to the Metro Clerk on March 8. They go through a one week or so process to verify that the signatures are valid and over 33,000. Do we expect that will take a week or two?
Roberts: Well, actually they accept certain terms and then they send them over to the election commission and I think Election Commission actually does the ballot.
Leahy: Okay, so that takes a couple of weeks and they’ll determine if it looks like they’ll determine that it looks you’ll have well over the 33,000. Do you think that’s true?
Roberts: I have every reason to believe that yes.
Leahy: So we put it back to the Metro Clerk and then we’re in late March when this happens. Will the city again sue its citizens to stop this? Do you anticipate another lawsuit?
Roberts: Well, I understand the level of dishonesty that I expect from my government is almost unlimited. And I hate to say that. I know there are some good people out there, but when you’ve dealt with them and these sorts of ways you start to lose a little faith in humanity. They’re going to try to stop this because they have to. This is about power and it’s about taking away power from the government and returning it to the people.
And the government never likes it. Never wants that. And if they’ll do anything they can to stop it. What we did with this Taxpayer Protection Act is we looked at all the things that Metro legal complained about and we adjusted it to meet their satisfaction. I have no doubt they’ll come up with some new problems. They’ll make up things they never brought up before. This will be litigated. But here’s the problem they have and it’s real simple.
By separating this into six separate amendments, they have to get all six of them knocked out. Because if they only get three or four there’s going to be an election and then if there’s going to be litigation it’s going to be a second election. So they are faced with having two elections if they fight this as opposed to just having one election and having it over with. I mean, I can’t even imagine what dishonest argument they’ll put forth. It’s almost like a betting pool to decide what they’ll pull out.
Leahy: We can ask our listeners to say what dishonest argument will the Metro Government Mayor Cooper and his crowd make to try and stop this in the court of law?
Listen to the full first 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 “Davidson Courthouse” by Reading Tom. CC BY 2.0.