have filed two new bills (HB-0020 and HB-0045) designed to boost rural economic development to be heard in the upcoming legislative session, which begins on Jan. 12.

As introduced, House Bill 20 lowers, from $500,000 to $250,000, the amount of the required capital investment within a five-year period to be made by a business in a Tier 3 or Tier 4 enhancement county with a population less than 50,000 to qualify for a job tax credit.

Additionally, my bill proposes to increase, from $4,500 to $9,000, the amount of the job tax credit provided to the business.

The vast majority of rural counties in Tennessee have been designated Tier 3 or 4 counties for purposes of Tennessee job tax credit.

Henry and Stewart counties are Tier 3 counties, along with Weakley, Decatur, Hardin, Gibson, Dyer, Henderson, Chester, Crockett, Humphreys and Lawrence counties.

Benton County is a Tier 4 county, along with Carroll, Obion, Lake, Houston, McNairy, Perry, Wayne, Lewis, Hardeman, Haywood and Lauderdale counties.

A standard job tax credit is available to businesses that invest in Tennessee and create jobs as a result of the investment, and the job tax credit may offset up to 50% of the taxpayer’s franchise and excise taxes with any unused credit carried forward up to 15 years.

My bill will give twice as much incentive for a business to invest in a rural county as opposed to a metropolitan area such as Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Dickson or Murfreesboro, by way of example, that are already booming with business and development.

The second bill I filed, House Bill 45, would create a rural relocation tax credit for certain out-of-state businesses that relocate to Tier 3 and Tier 4 enhancement counties with a population less than 50,000.

There are many businesses seeking to flee high-tax states with burdensome government regulations, such as Illinois, New York and California, just to name a few.

They are looking for a place to relocate, and I want to give them as much incentive as possible to relocate to rural Tennessee, where we are in desperate need of jobs for our communities.

One of my campaign platforms on which I ran for office was rural economic development, and I intend to remain focused on that.

This is not the first rural economic development legislation I have proposed in Tennessee. Earlier this year, I pursued two other bills to fuel economic development and job creation in rural counties.

One was House Bill 2703, which called for the establishment of a Tennessee Rural Economic Development Fund, into which 10% of any excess state tax revenues collected over budget would be placed.

The money, which would have amounted to $63.6 million annually, based on 2018-2019 fiscal year numbers, then would be distributed to counties designated as “rural” by the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development.

My second bill this past legislative session was House Bill 1586, under which the Department of Economic and Community Development would be required to develop a written plan by Feb. 1, 2021, to ensure that two-thirds of all money they distribute are used for economic development in rural counties as measured on a per-county basis for a four-year period, beginning July 1, 2021 and continuing until July 1, 2025.

On average, urban counties in Tennessee receive three times the amount of economic and community development dollars from the state as rural counties on a per-county basis.

For example, over roughly the last four years, urban counties received $15.75 million on average per county and rural counties only received $5.59 million on average per county.

I want to flip the allocation of ECD dollars so more businesses are encouraged and motivated to move to rural areas in Tennessee.

To illustrate the importance of my legislation, District 75 — my district, consisting of the three rural counties of Benton, Henry and Stewart — collectively received from the state $7.7 million over the last four years for economic and community development, while Shelby County (a single urban county) received more than $70 million.

Another example is that Stewart County, as an individual rural county, only received $564,397 over the last four years while, by comparison, Davidson County, as an individual urban county, received more than $64 million — more than 113 times the amount of money Stewart County received.

This allocation by the state is simply unfair and has resulted in metro areas such as Nashville booming and rural areas declining and hurting.

The infrastructure of Nashville cannot handle continued exponential growth, and a solution to the issue that benefits Tennessee as a whole is to redirect economic and industrial development away from the metro areas to the rural areas, and start by doing so through a reallocation of ECD dollars.

For far too long, the rural counties have been overlooked by businesses interested in relocating or expanding that naturally tend to gravitate towards urban developed areas. I intend to change this.

Rural Tennessee and rural America has suffered tremendous damage as a result of NAFTA and the transfer of American manufacturing jobs to China for cheap and reported slave labor.

These were horrible policies promoted by politicians in both parties.

President Donald Trump’s America First policies and leadership have demonstrated just how disastrous it has been for America and American workers to allow the wholesale relocation of good-paying American jobs to foreign countries.

We need to work with American businesses and manufacturing with regulation and tax relief so they can compete against unfair trade and labor practices.

To these ends, I formed the Rural Caucus at the legislature for this very purpose, and if every legislator whose district includes a rural county supported and voted in favor of these bills, they would have a chance of passing.

However, it will require legislators in rural areas of Tennessee to stick together.

 

LETTER TO CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION

Also, I and 22 other state representatives and senators sent a letter last Wednesday to Tennessee’s two U.S. senators and seven U.S. representatives asking for support of efforts to challenge the electors from seven states where illegitimate voting/ballots were erroneously counted.

 

BRUCE GRIFFEY, R-Paris, represents the 75th District, which includes Henry County, in the Tennessee House of Representatives. His email is rep.bruce.griffey@capitol.tn.gov.

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