An $80 million grocery tax holiday, $78 million for the state’s airports, $20 million for docks on the Memphis waterfront, $17 million for a racetrack and $500 million bonded for a new Tennessee Titans stadium all were part of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s fiscal year 2023 budget amendment first presented on Tuesday morning.
The amendment brought the governor’s proposed state budget to $52.8 billion. The amendment represented $19.5 million in additional recurring spending and $228.5 million in additional non-recurring spending. It also eliminated proposed spending in several areas. The proposal will have to pass the Tennessee Senate and House to be enacted.
A 30-day grocery tax holiday on the state’s 4% food tax is expected to take place in August, if approved, according to Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley. The $80 million price tag for the holiday comes from $49 million in lost grocery taxes and $31 million the state would send local governments to cover their portion of the taxes that would not be collected.
The budget proposal also included $20 million to lower the state’s professional privilege tax from $400 to $300. Tennessee collects that fee to register anyone in the state who is an attorney, securities agent, broker-dealer, investment adviser, lobbyist, doctor or osteopathic physician.
Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, asked Eley why a $20 million tax break would be given to those who could afford it, and many who live outside of Tennessee, rather than reducing taxes for Tennessee residents.
“What we tried to do is look at a combination of relief,” Eley said. “A smaller reduction with professional privilege and also have the grocery tax.”
The budget amendment also included $15 million for voter-verified paper audit train voting machines.
The aviation funding included $65.8 million in air carrier support and $12.4 million in general aviation support as the state moves away from funding its airports through jet fuel tax after imposing a per-carrier tax cap in 2015. The airports have asked for $125 million in annual funding.
The Legislature cut the tax rate from 4.5% to 4.25% last year and capped the tax for any one entity from $10.5 million to $8.5 million. That cap affected only FedEx, which had paid $32 million in fuel taxes before the $10.5 million cap was created in 2015.