Political notebook: Tennessee tax collections fall behind

Staff File Photo by Matt Hamilton /  State Finance and Administration Commissioner Jim Bryson warns that state revenues are falling behind last year's levels and behind budgeted projections.
Staff File Photo by Matt Hamilton / State Finance and Administration Commissioner Jim Bryson warns that state revenues are falling behind last year's levels and behind budgeted projections.

NASHVILLE — State Finance and Administration Commissioner Jim Bryson said last week that state revenues continue to lag behind last year's revenues and this year's budgeted projections.

Revenues for October were $1.48 billion, which is $50.9 million less than October of last year and $62.1 million less than the budgeted estimate.

In August through October, general fund revenues were $114.7 million less than estimates.

"October revenues fell short of expectations primarily because of losses in sales tax receipts, reduced corporate tax filings and depressed realty transfer and realty mortgage tax collections," Bryson said in a news release. "Lower collections from each of these taxes represent concerns we have expressed for some time. The sales tax holiday on groceries decreased state collections. Franchise and excise tax collections were also lower, as more corporate refunds from overpayments were processed during the month. Furthermore, real estate transaction taxes continue to weaken as interest rates remain high.

"We continue to closely watch the current economic environment and will carefully monitor our revenue and expenditure patterns for the balance of this fiscal year," the commissioner added.

The State Funding Board, meanwhile, OK'd a revised range of general fund revenue projections, pegging tax and other collections dipping to between -0.5% to 0% in the current budget year. The board set a range of -0.5% to +0.5% for the fiscal year beginning July 2024.

[READ MORE: Tennessee kicks of budget season with experts predicting stagnant revenues]

Press appointment

Ben Whitehead, a former reporter and fact-checker with The Daily Wire, a Nashville-based conservative news website and media company, was recently named as deputy press secretary for the Tennessee House Republican Caucus, Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, announced last week.

Whitehead will serve as deputy to Press Secretary Jennifer Easton for the 75-member House Republican Caucus and, according to a news release, his duties include "strengthening constituent communications."

"Ben brings a wealth of experience in political communication and analysis," Lamberth said. "He will be instrumental in advancing our conservative priorities of keeping taxes low, improving education, boosting economic opportunities and strengthening public safety. We are delighted to welcome Ben to our talented team."

Whitehead, a Michigan native, has a Bachelor of Science degree in global conflict studies from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

DeSantis PAC

Politico is reporting that BHA Strategy, a strategic consulting firm founded by Gov. Bill Lee's former chief of staff Blake Harris, is now heading up Fight Right, a new group supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' Republican presidential effort.

[READ MORE: Political Notebook: Lee attends DeSantis event in Florida]

Harris had been working as a senior adviser to U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican who recently suspended his GOP presidential bid as former President Donald Trump continues to dominate the field.

Fight Right recently launched a nearly $1 million television ad buy attacking GOP presidential rival Nikki Haley, comparing the former South Carolina governor to Democrat Hillary Clinton. That comes as Haley's numbers have risen.

Michael Caputo, a Republican political strategist who worked in the Trump administration, said in a social media post that Harris has his work cut out for him.

"All loyalties aside, I wish Blake Harris well on his new assignment," Caputo wrote. "Leaping from a rival campaign onto the deck of a flaming ship in the midst of a bloody infighting battle is a thankless, uphill job. I hear he's a good guy. My advice: strap your breastplate on your back, Blake."

Avoid scams

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett is reminding Tennesseans to be alert to potential scams when donating.

[READ MORE: Two Hamilton County high schools earn Tennessee student-voter registration awards]

"This time of year, many Tennesseans are in the giving spirit," said Hargett, whose office includes the Division of Business and Charitable Organizations, in a news release. "Unfortunately, there are scammers who will try to take advantage of your generosity. Before donating this holiday season, it's important to be an educated consumer with your charitable dollars."

Before donating this holiday season, Hargett said people can help avoid fraud and maximize their donation's effect by turning to the division's Wise Giving Tips guidelines at sos.tn.gov/charities or calling 615-741-2555. The website allows users to check out registered groups and charities.

The Wise Giving Tips are:

— If a nonprofit asks you for a contribution, check if it's registered.

— Take your time. Resist pressure to give on the spot.

— Ask questions. If an organization has a specific mission, ask how and who will benefit from your donation.

— If you are asked for a donation via text or email, verify the request is directly from the charity or nonprofit.

— Do your own research and don't assume a social media or blog recommendation has been approved by the nonprofit.

— If you give through an app or website, make sure your donation goes directly to the organization.

— Avoid giving cash. Always ask for a receipt and if your contribution is tax-deductible.

— Pay close attention to the name of the nonprofit organization. There are many organizations with similar names.

— Don't forget there are many ways to give, such as volunteering your time.

— If a paid fundraiser asks you for a donation, ask how much the fundraiser keeps and how much goes to the nonprofit.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-285-9480.

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