The Dangerous Cycle of Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying

September 17, 2009 4:19PM

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research today released a report exposing that local governments in the state have spent $5.3 million on high-profile lobbyists to influence the state and federal government. The report, titled The Dangerous Cycle of Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying, looks at lobbying expenditures made by cities, counties, school boards, and other local public entities between 2007 and 2009.

“This cycle is harmful to taxpayers because the lobbyists hired are pushing for higher taxes and bigger government—two things most taxpayers oppose,” said Grover Norquist, president of the nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform.

Using taxpayer money, forty-seven local governments pressed the state legislature and U.S. Congress to increase taxes and expand their authority over Tennessee citizens. Examples of laws passed that favor these local governments include:

  • A law that allows certain cities (all but one of which employed lobbyists) to avoid the bidding process designed to promote fiscal accountability for all purchases under $25,000 instead of the previous limit of $10,000.
  • An act that allowed the Gibson County Special School District to drive local taxpayers $23 million into debt to fund a new school by issuing bonds. The act also allowed the school district to raise property taxes to pay interest on the bonds.
  • Laws that permit Blount County and the City of Kingsport to raise their hotel taxes.
  • A law that authorizes Knox County to levy a litigation tax on the county’s residents that appear in court.

“It is unacceptable that these local governments spend millions on lobbyists despite budget crunches that are forcing them to raise taxes and lay off employees,” said Justin Owen, director of legal policy at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research and co-author of the report. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research calls on state lawmakers to ban the use of taxpayer money to fund lobbyists at both the state and federal level. “Local governments should press for policy changes through their elected representatives rather than teams of taxpayer-funded lobbyists,” Owen stated. The Dangerous Cycle of Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying can be read in its entirety here.