Fact check: 15 seconds of shame? Harshbarger ad blasts opponent Hill for alleged tax increases

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A new negative ad released by the Diana Harshbarger congressional campaign labels one opponent, Timothy Hill, “Tax Hiking Tim Hill.”

(WJHL) – First District Congressional Republican primary candidate Timothy Hill is on the receiving end of a short attack ad opponent Diana Harshbarger released Friday labeling him “Tax Hiking Tim Hill.”

The 15-second piece gets straight to the point: “Tim Hill’s never seen a tax he didn’t like. Gas taxes – check. Nursing home tax – check. A beer tax – check.”

The ad claims Hill has voted 35 times to increase “your taxes” and ends by saying “Don’t let Tim Hill anywhere near Washington D.C.”

News Channel 11 is fact-checking as many negative ads as possible in an effort to provide a public service. We reached out to the Harshbarger campaign asking for citations to support the ad and didn’t hear back by the time this web story was published.

Harshbarger and Hill are among 15 candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the Aug. 6 primary for Tennessee’s First Congressional District. Early voting began July 17 for the seat being vacated by retiring six-term Congressman Dr. Phil Roe.

Gas, beer, nursing homes

Hill, who has represented the Third House District since 2012, was labeled as supporting a gas tax increase in a mailer sent out by the Harshbarger campaign earlier this week. News Channel 11 looked at the records then and found that Hill did not support the 2017 increase in Tennessee’s gas tax

State Representative Timothy Hill actually voted “no” on a proposed gas tax increase.

Hill joined 34 other Republicans in opposition. That tax passed the House 60-37 with 36 Republicans voting in favor.

Fact check: We find no evidence of Hill having supported a gas tax increase.

The only possible “tax increase” on nursing homes we could find wasn’t a tax increase per se. It was a change in the annual nursing home “provider assessment” that has been in place for 30 years.

That’s according to Jesse Samples, executive director for the Tennessee Health Care Association/Tennessee Center for Assisted Living. Samples said the assessment is used to help support nursing home residents who rely on Medicaid to cover their cost of care.

A total of 44 states have a similar method. Samples said the nursing homes pay the assessment and that it supports about a third of Tennessee’s total nursing home budget by allowing for a federal Medicaid match. He called it “a valuable funding tool for the Volunteer State’s long-term care community.”

The assessment did increase in 2015, Samples said, from 4.5 percent of patient revenues to 4.75 percent. He said his organization fully supported the adjustment.

Fact check: It’s a stretch to call this a tax. It’s voted on annually and passed in the House this year 87-3.

As for beer, the only reference we could find was to the 2013 passage of a revision to the state’s wholesale beer tax that was promoted by craft brewers. It actually kept overall revenues the same and changed the way the tax is calculated to slow down the unintended growth in Tennessee’s beer tax that was the result of the previous law’s language.

Tennessee still has the nation’s highest beer tax.

Fact check: Tennessee changed but did not raise its beer tax during Hill’s tenure according to records we could find. Hill joined 86 other House members in the 87-2 vote approving the change.

News Channel 11 didn’t have the time to try and find whether Hill has raised taxes 35 times, but Hill offered this response to the ad in a statement.

“This morning Diana Harshbarger launched a false, defamatory television ad about my record. The truth is I voted no on the gas tax in the face of nonstop cajoling, persuasion and outright threats from the major interests who supported it, and I have never voted to raise taxes on beer or nursing homes.

“I have one of the most consistent records opposing tax hikes in Tennessee, and I have led the fight to repeal and decrease taxes like the Hall Income Tax and the tax on groceries.”

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