Reply To: 2023 Legislative Priorities
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In addition to the items listed by other Commissioners, I believe these items (many we’ve been working on before/since 2021) are still very relevant and should be included in the State Legislative Priorities. Some may have already been worked on in some form, Commissioner Schoonmaker would likely know if any language needs to be adjusted.
Additionally, we should cross-reference our priorities with the Mayor Jacob’s office to make sure if we have similar agenda items, they are written/coordinated similarly.
TDOT INVESTMENT **needs to be re-written**
Knox County has a significant number of state routes that are in need of maintenance, improvement and/or expansion. We would request TDOT quickly review all state routes and work with Knox County EPW to prioritize focus and funding. Additionally, Knox Co. is at the crossroads of the country, and with a significant increase in traffic and commerce passing through our narrow corridor (I-40 / I-640 / I-275) we request TDOT reconsider a bypass route that would help divert pass-through traffic around our urban corridor.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACCESSIBILITY
Currently, if a member of County Commission is absent due to an extenuating circumstance (e.g. medical, family death, etc.), they cannot participate in meetings via electronic means (outside of an emergency order by the Governor) and therefore cannot represent their constituents. We would like you to support legislation that allows for electronic participation for members of Commission under emergency circumstances. (there is a bill planned to be filed by Senator Briggs and Representative Wright)
PUBLIC SAFETY **these numbers should be verified with KCSO before finalizing***
We ask that you work to increase the funding reimbursement for holding state prisoners in the Knox County Detention Facility. Currently, the state reimbursement rate is $39.00/day but the average daily costs per prisoner housing and healthcare is $73.45/day. The State of TN is mandated to pick up state prisoners within 14 days, however, Knox Co.’s average length of stay for a state prisoner before pickup is 242 days. This delay results in a significant cost burden to the citizens of Knox County.
PUBLIC / MENTAL HEALTH
Mental health continues to be a growing challenge in Knox County, and we remain the regional support-hub for this type of healthcare. We urge you to push for restoration of the operational funding for the Behavioral Heath Urgent Care Center (BHUCC) and encourage the State of Tennessee to authorize and fund a NEW regional mental health facility in Knox County by providing both capital and ongoing operational funding.
Please consider pushing for a rewrite of the statute regulating rating agencies (e.g. ISO) so that the term “subscription fire department” refers to all fire departments that receive revenue from subscriptions, regardless of whether they respond to non-subscriber calls or not. This is important because the local ISO representatives are not enforcing their own regulations, which ultimately punishes both the fire departments and subscribers. If the reduced insurance premiums (based on being a subscriber) is given to everyone, whether they are a subscriber or not, it disenfranchises customers and places additional financial stress on the fire protection entities.
SALES TAXES ADMINISTRATIVE FEE
On every sale in Knox County, the local option sales tax portion (2.25%) is sent to the State of Tennessee, then returned to Knox County after 30 days. To perform this function, the State charges Knox Co. a 1.125% administrative fee. With the advent of improved technology and automation practices, we feel the fee is egregious and ask for you to work on a plan to reduce the administrative fee to a maximum of 0.5%.
SINGLE ARTICLE SALES TAX ADJUSTMENT
Currently, on all local sales, the tax revenue from the first $1,600 is divided between the state (7%) and locally (2.25%). For the amounts above the $1,600 threshold, the State of Tennessee takes all the tax revenue (9.25%) leaving nothing to support the local municipality. We are requesting you help move the threshold value to $3,200 where both the State and Knox County will share the sales tax revenue.
FUEL TAXES / ELECTRIC VEHICLE USES
Tennessee relies heavily on fuel taxes to fund our vital infrastructure. With the rise of electric vehicles that do not need gas and therefore would not help contribute to road maintenance, we encourage you to address this with the General Assembly and explore options for user or per-mile fees which would help find a way to treat all vehicles equitably.
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY TAX REDUCTIONS
Large commercial and industrial property owners (e.g. big-box stores) are increasingly appealing their property tax rates directly to the State of Tennessee and seeking significant tax liability reductions through third-party solicitors. This practice continues to shift the financial burden to local taxpayers and increases pressure on residential homeowners, commercial businesses, and rural farm owners. We urge you to find ways to mitigate this State level direct-appeal practice without local engagement with the County Property Assessor.