Concord Farragut Republican Club members heard encouraging state statistics from 7th District state Sen. Dr. Richard Briggs [R-Knox County/Farragut].
“We balance our budgets every year, and that’s something some of the states don’t do,” Briggs said as the club’s featured speaker during its monthly first-Thursday meeting in Knox County Sheriff’s Office’s West precinct Sept. 7.
General Assembly also did away with the Death Tax, cut the Hall Tax 4 percent, the Food Tax 1 percent and cut the Franchise and Excise Tax, making Tennessee competitive in attracting industries, he said.
“We’re going to completely eliminate the Hall Tax over the next few years,” Briggs said. “We cut it 1 percent last year and 4 percent this year.”
“That really is a fair way to do it,” said Farragut Alderman Louise Povlin, a meeting attendee.
“Tennessee has the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded in the history of Tennessee since we have been working here,” Briggs said.
Briggs said Tennessee has the lowest debt per person of any state in the country, around $900 per person.
“Part of that reason is we are a pay-as-you-go state for our roads,” he said.
The state also has increased its rainy-day fund to around $800 million, Briggs added.
Additionally, he said the state had a revenue surplus from last fiscal year, giving the state $1 billion in reserves.
“This year, we had nearly $2 billion of excess,” Briggs added, but noted that $1 billion was one-time monies.
In education, “We’re the fastest improving state in the country,” Briggs said. “I believe in 2008 or so, we were 47th. I said [then], ‘thank God for Mississippi and Louisiana or we would be dead last.’”
However, Briggs said he is hearing from businesses that can’t hire people because they are failing drug tests, mostly for marijuana and opioids.
The crisis also is affecting education: when babies born with opioid dependence become kindergartners, they are found to have developmental and behavioral deficiencies, which special education departments aren’t equipped to handle, he said.
“This has become such a huge problem that President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency,” Briggs said.