The Tennessee General Assembly convenes every year with desks in the state Senate and House piled high with the requests of special interests which don’t contribute to election campaigns and the demands of special interests which do. Included in the former category are wish lists from most every municipality in the state.
Because the cities are the engines of economic development, without which the state and its regions would stagnate, we generally look with favor upon the requests of Tri-Cities municipalities, but not entirely, this year at least.
The joint policy requests of Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol urge state representatives to reject any attempt to allow de-annexation unless cities fail to meet their required annexation plan of services, and in that, we support them.
Cities followed existing law in annexing areas which benefited from their proximity to cities and made use of city services like roads, without contributing to their upkeep.
And in doing so, the cities made large investments such as extending water and sewer services and building fire stations and satellite police stations, for example.
If those areas were allowed by vote to de-annex, how would the cities recoup those investments?
We also agree with the cities’ request that lawmakers oppose any legislation that would reduce the authority of regional planning commissions to regulate land use within municipal urban growth boundaries, and as well to require Suboxone clinics to obtain a certificate of need as is the case with methadone clinics.
Lawmakers should also heed requests to broaden murder statutes to hold responsible those who illegally distribute drugs which result in the death of the user, and initiate studies on extending rail service along interstate corridors.
But we do not agree with the cities’ request that the legislature give them authority to raise new taxes on tobacco products or allow them to initiate a local-option restaurant tax of up to 2 percent. This region already loses tobacco tax revenue to Virginia due to its lower taxes. Increasing the tax on tobacco would drive more consumers across the state line. It won’t impact the number of smokers, as some might suggest.
And restaurant taxes introduce complexity and place local restaurants at a competitive disadvantage, i.e., what if Kingsport installed such a tax and Johnson City did not? We have enough taxes on products and services or permanent taxes that began life as a temporary tax.