Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee proposes 30-day grocery tax suspension to combat inflation

Posted at 6:46 AM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 22:05:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has proposed a month-long grocery tax suspension in an effort to combat rising inflation rates.

The proposal would suspend state and local sales tax on groceries for 30 days. It will be included in the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget, which will be delivered next Tuesday.

"As Americans see their cost-of-living skyrocket amid historic inflation, suspending the grocery tax is the most effective way to provide direct relief to every Tennessean," said Gov. Lee. "Our state has the ability to put dollars back in the pockets of hardworking Tennesseans, and I thank members of the General Assembly for their continued partnership in maintaining our fiscally conservative approach."

Lee said the tax suspension will provide direct financial relief for Tennesseans amid a nationwide "cost-of-living surge."

"I’m already watching my pennies. I’m getting close to retirement so we make every trip count, buy what we need and do without before what we don’t," said shopper, John Griffith.

Griffith says it's a great idea but the state needs to go a step farther.

"It’s nice and it’s a good thought, it might be political nature but I believe the real solution to help people these days it’s to look at ways to reduce our tax burden and spend our money wisely just like order grandparents would’ve done and my parents during the depression."

Like many grocery stores the pandemic was challenging on Compton's Foodland. Store manager John Carpenter says this plan could help everyone.

"In this community, it's a win win. A lot of our customers here really, really struggle month to month to make ends meet and so any little bit is going to help it's so it's a win for them. So win from for us because they will come in here and we know that we are providing a service to them."

But some customers wonder if 30 days is enough in tax relief.

"I think it would be great for a large family but for two or less I don’t see the benefits," said shopper Leslie Sawyers III.

The governor's office hosted a round table with business leaders Thursday in Covington.

The bill would have to first pass through the state legislature. Lawmakers from both parties said they supported the measure.

Republicans said it's to combat inflation.

"Unfortunately, because of this administrations poor decisions, we've got enormous inflation and all of us are feeling that when we go to the grocery store," said Rep. William Lamberth.
"Food is something that everyone needs. We want to make sure every single person in Tennessee is able to go to the grocery store and pay a little bit less."

Democrats applauded the idea. Though, they said they've been proposing grocery tax holidays for a decade.

"When we introduced this bill it was in the midst of the pandemic and people didn't have enough food on the table," said Rep. Vincent Dixie. "They didn't have enough money to pay their bills and keep a roof over their head."

Some said they believed adding a gas tax break could be beneficial as well. Republicans didn't comment on that idea.

Right now it's not clear when the tax holiday could be. The legislature will figure out the dates when they discuss it in committee.