by Jon Styf
The Tennessee Legislature approved $500 million of bonds for a new Tennessee Titans stadium as part of a record $52.8 billion budget on Thursday.
The Titans stadium funds were not initially included in budget appropriations passed by the Senate in the early afternoon after they were removed in committee on Wednesday, but later in the day the Senate concurred on the budget that the House had passed, including the Titans stadium funds.
The $500 million in bonds for the stadium will require $55 million in annual payments.
House discussion included a pair of rejected amendments from State Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, who proposed sending $55 million to the rest of the counties in the state instead of the spending for a new Titans stadium.
“Every poor person that goes and buys a Coke or anything else, they have to pay sales tax and you want to take that money out of their pocket and give it to people who are millionaires and billionaires and I say that it’s wrong,” Sexton said. “Why aren’t we taking money and investing in every business in Tennessee? Why do we have to choose winners and losers?”
The stadium, which is planned to open for the 2026 season, is estimated to cost between $1.9 billion and $2.2 billion with the $500 million from the state, $700 million from Metro Nashville and $700 million from Titans ownership.
In response, State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, said that he believed the economic impact report from the Department of Finance and Administration regarding the benefits of a new Titans stadium and read from the two-page handout.
He then also cited the charitable work that the Titans and players had done in the community, including star running back Derrick Henry handing out backpacks at local schools.
“There has been much discussion that has been intellectually dishonest about the Titans stadium,” Zachary said.
Zachary said he believed that the $4 billion to $6 billion mixed-use development around the new stadium funded by the Titans would have a large positive impact.
Sports economists who have studied new stadiums and the neighborhoods or businesses built around them, however, have shown that publicly funded stadium consistently do not pay off for taxpayers as promised.
Last year, the Legislature approved a state sales tax concession that included 100% of the sales tax from tickets and sales at a stadium along with 50% of the sales tax from a planned development on the 130 acres surrounding a potential new stadium.
Those funds will all go into an account with the Metro Nashville Sports Authority to pay for costs at the stadium.
State Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, touted $300 million in tax cuts, stating “the media isn’t going to cover this part.”
The budget appropriations passed in both legislative chambers as part of a $52.8 billion budget proposal in the House includes $82 million for an August grocery tax holiday proposed by Gov. Bill Lee. The proposal also provides $121.6 million to fund a one-year moratorium on vehicle registration fees for all Tennessee residents on personal vehicles and motorcycles.
The amended budget appropriations also include $9.7 million in funding to cut a professional privilege tax for physicians in both osteopathic and medical disciplines. Watson said that this was part of a continuing process to eliminate all privilege taxes for certain professionals.
The bills also used $11 million in one-time funding to pay vendors throughout the state who collect sales tax, giving $25 per month to vendors with a maximum of $300 per month for a company with multiple stores across the state.
The funding will help those companies cover the credit card sales fees that they are assessed on both sales and sales tax money they collect.
Another line item is a $50 million broadband internet sales tax reduction for businesses that holds local governments harmless, meaning it includes $18 million in funding from the state to local governments to account for the impact of the sales tax break.
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Jon Styf ia a regular contributor at The Center Square. Styf, an award-winning editor and reporter, has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.