Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is suing the federal government, arguing that strings tied to the billions of dollars in relief money coming to the state via the American Rescue Plan are unconstitutional.
Slatery, joined by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, argues that a provision in the COVID-19 stimulus bill that prohibits states from using the funds to lower taxes “unconstitutionally usurps the authority of each state’s legislature to enact beneficial tax policies.”
“The states have a constitutional right to implement their own tax policy,” Slatery said in a release. “We should not have to choose between accepting COVID-19 relief funds or surrendering to Washington’s attempt to override what only our elected officials in Tennessee are authorized to do.”
The legislation, passed earlier this year by Congress, is expected to deliver $4 billion to the state, $2.26 billion to local governments in Tennessee and $2.3 billion to Tennessee school districts, plus billions more in payments to individuals and other entities in the state. Republican leaders in Tennessee — including Gov. Bill Lee, who called it “economic meth” — have argued the state doesn’t need the funds, but they plan to accept them anyway.
Slatery and Cameron filed the suit in the Eastern District of Kentucky. A spokesperson for the Biden administration deferred comment to the Treasury Department, a representative for which did not respond to a request for comment.
"Tennessee Republicans can complain all they want but the stimulus bill is hugely popular with 70 percent of voters,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), a supporter of the legislation, said. “Let the courts decide the technical issues but keep the economy rolling."