Tennessee Pastors Network President Dale Walker Decries ‘Big Liquor’s’ Property Tax Break

On the heels of Governor Haslam’s signing a law to formally exempt a certain type of property tax of the world-famous distillery Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Company, among others, Tennessee Pastors Network President fired back, denouncing the move as another victory for ‘Big Liquor.’

“Tennessee Republicans, the party of Big Liquor, continue to insult the voters with tax cuts to Jack Daniel’s Distillery at a time when Tennesseans are paying higher fuel taxes because of the Improve Act,” Walker said in a statement.

Walker continued:

Big Liquor doesn’t deserve any tax breaks with the havoc that alcohol wreaks on our society. We are already in an addiction crisis. The Republicans who voted for this law must all be drunk and have forgotten their vow of ‘so help me God’ to uphold the Constitution. Politicians use ‘God’ to get elected and then are influenced by powerful liquor lobbyists to pave the way for more profits for Big Liquor that only help destroy our Christian culture and ruin the lives of our citizens. Sales on Sunday and now tax cuts—only the devil knows what’s next for the party of Big Liquor!

The tax carve-out was introduced at the beginning of the 2018 session and passed overwhelmingly by the Republican super-majority in the state legislature after it was discovered by local auditors the whiskey maker had not been paying property taxes on the barrels used in the manufacturing process.

As Steve Stockard reported in The Daily News last week:

Property assessors argued throughout the 2018 legislative session Jack Daniel’s should go through the process already in place, says Will Denami, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Assessing Officers.

“The assessors of property have felt like the entire time all taxpayers should be treated the same and that’s how you have a fair and equitable property tax system,” Denami explains. “So, when any taxpayer receives special treatment from the Legislature to allow them to bypass an appeals process, we think that’s not a good way to go.”

Rob Mitchell, property assessor in Rutherford County, isn’t so kind in a letter written to Haslam before the Legislature took final action.

“The goodwill which Jack Daniel’s has created over generations is being spent in a frivolous pursuit of unwarranted exceptions to state law,” Mitchell’s letter states. “The millions of dollars they just benefited from with the change in federal tax law is being squandered in pursuit of an illegal and immoral local property tax exemption. Only the lawyers profit from the continuance of this legislative process.”

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey company took the lead in the fight for the exemption, noting they had not been required to pay the tax since the end of Prohibition 80 years ago.

In a statement to KnoxNews in late March, Mater Distiller Jack Arnett said:

“This is not a Jack Daniel tax this is an industry tax that would hit nearly 40 distilleries from Memphis to Bristol,” he said. “A lot of these distilleries don’t have the funds to pay it.”

  • Paying that tax on around 2 million barrels would cost the company a nearly $3 million this year.
  • Based on the size and scale of the operation of the other distilleries across the state, it could cost the others thousands up to millions.

“We’re not really trying to save anything because we really never had to pay it before. It’s a money grab.”

However, Walker disagrees, placing the blame for the unequal taxation squarely at the feet of the legislators who passed the measure. “These same Republicans voted for tax benefits for Big Liquor and yet taxed the poor, working families of Tennessee with higher fuel taxes every time they go to the pump,” Pastor Walker said.


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