July Legislative Update
Jul 01, 2019
Speaking of budget, Tennessee General Fund revenues at this point in the budget year are ahead of projections by nearly $500 million. Most of the increased revenues have been generated by sales tax. Tennessee was recently named by U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 state on its list of fiscal stability rankings. The report used state credit ratings and public pension liabilities to measure financial health.
Agriculture and the farmers of Tennessee should consider the session successful despite undertones of legislative skepticism, which, at worst, only remotely affect the state’s agricultural policies.
A few of agriculture’s legislative highlights from the 2019 session include:
Agricultural water: Legislation passed to add agricultural water to items, which are tax exempt for farmers of the state.
Seasonal CDL for agribusiness: The new law authorizes farm-related service industry employees to attain a restricted Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for the purpose of completing seasonal agricultural work.
Agricultural trailers sales tax exempt: Adds other trailers to livestock trailers, which are currently sales tax-exempt under Tennessee state law.
Resolutions: Resolutions were unanimously passed to designate a Tennessee Agriculture Farmer Suicide Prevention Day in Tennessee and to recognize Shooting Hunger for eclipsing the 1 million mark in providing meals for hungry Tennesseans. Co-op is an integral part of both of these efforts.
The always anticipated Agriculture Day on the Hill was one for the record books in 2019. The event was led by freshman representative Chris Todd (R-Jackson), Tennessee farmers, and agribusiness. The event brings a diverse cross-section of agriculture leadership to the state capitol, where they are joined by lawmakers. Gov. Bill Lee made a statement in his first year by competing in the annual crosscut-log cutting contest and winning the event over the House and Senate.
Of general interest in the 2019 session, the legislature passed last-minute education voucher legislation. The voucher component of the new law will only apply to Davidson and Shelby counties; however, grant incentive dollars for rural school districts are also included in the language of the law. School voucher programs are designed to award private school scholarships to children who are in under-performing public schools. The legislature also extended a $22 million professional privilege tax cut to 15 professions, including veterinarians. Other budget highlights include:
• Increasing the state’s Rainy Day Fund by $240 million
• Designating $25 million for the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) initiative to expand K-12 CTE programs, primarily in rural areas
• Allocation of an additional $30 million for school resource officers
• Addition of $27 million to provide life-saving medical services through TennCare to Tennessee children with significant disabilities
• $222 million for economic development projects
Thanks for staying engaged this session. Until next time, stay active in your Co-op and let your lawmakers know what matters to you.
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The University of Tennessee System President Randy Boyd and University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman announced on Jan. 26, leadership transitions at the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA).
The Tennessee Department of Revenue and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture remind farmers, timber harvesters, and nursery operators that they can buy more items tax-free in 2023.
Despite a year wrought with market volatility brought about by supply chain issues and global events, researchers and Extension specialists from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) say Tennessee’s agricultural and related exports continue to bolster the state’s economy. Exports reached $2.7 billion in 2022, up $412 million or 18% over 2021. This increase follows a 17% increase in 2021 as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to recede.