NASHVILLE — A coalition of “big-box” retail giants and mom-and-pop businesses took to the television airwaves today with a 30-second ad attacking a state sales-tax collection exemption for online retailer Amazon.com.
The move by Virginia-based Alliance for Main Street Fairness, members of which range from Wal-Mart to small businesses like Fish Mania in Chattanooga, comes as the group seeks to build public support for legislation against what an agreement struck by Tennessee last year to persuade Amazon to build two distribution centers in Chattanooga and Bradley County.
“Who gets hurt when out-of-state companies get special deals to come to Tennessee, and get a competitive advantage over local businesses?” the ad asks. “Tennessee small businesses, that’s who. Every retailer on every Main Street pays the price. The price is lost jobs. Let’s protect those jobs. Call your legislators.Tell them to stand with Main Street, and vote yes to stop the special deal for Amazon.com.”
Mike Cohen, a spokesman for the group, had no immediate information on where the ad is airing and how much the Alliance is spending. He said some 500 businesses have joined the Alliance for Main Street Fairness. The group recently ran ads in major newspapers outside Chattanooga.
Earlier in the day, executives with Alliance members with Best Buy and AutoZone as a Knoxville book store owner and Nashville jeweler testified for a bill that seeks to require Amazon and other online-only retailers with warehouse facilities in Tennessee to collect the sales tax.
The state charges a 7 percent sales tax on most items and local governments can levy up to 2.75 percent on top of that. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers say that gives online-only merchants a nearly ten percent price advantage over them.
No action was taken on the bill, which has been deferred until next week. The House Finance Subcommittee could take up the measure on Wednesday.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...