Four Tennessee governor candidates won’t release tax returns
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Four of the seven major candidates for Tennessee governor are declining to release details of their federal income tax returns.
The Tennessean newspaper asked five Republicans and two Democrats in the race for copies of their federal tax filings. U.S. Rep. Diane Black and fellow Republican state House Speaker Beth Harwell provided some financial details, as did Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh.
Among the remaining Republicans, former state Sen. Mae Beavers and businessmen Randy Boyd and Bill Lee declined the request, as did Democratic former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
Dean and Boyd said they may consider releasing details in the future.
Lee, who runs his family-owned construction company, said he would not release his income.
“In the interest of protecting my business and the over 1,200 employees there, I will not be releasing my tax returns in this campaign,” Lee said in a statement.
According to his gubernatorial announcement in April, the Lee Co. has $225 million in annual revenues.
Boyd is the founder of Radio Systems Corp, a privately held company that makes invisible fences and other pet products and has annual revenues of about $400 million. He also owns two minor league baseball teams, a vineyard in Argentina and a Scottish-themed bar in Knoxville.
He did not take a state salary when he served as an education adviser to Gov. Bill Haslam and later as commissioner of economic and community development. His campaign left the door open to a future disclosure. Spokeswoman Laine Arnold said it is “something we will certainly consider in due time once the final field of candidates is set and as we see what the other candidates intend to do.”
Haslam was heavily criticized by rivals in the 2010 governor’s race for being the only major candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. He argued at the time that releasing his earnings from Pilot Flying J, the country’s largest retailer, would reveal personal information about family members not running for office as well as proprietary information about the privately held company.
Previous Tennessee governors released earnings information, including Republicans Don Sundquist and Lamar Alexander and Democrats Phil Bredesen and Ned McWherter.
Tax documents released by the Black campaign showed that she and her husband, David, earned $7.2 million in 2016, about half of which came from the sale of property or investments and $2.5 million from rental real estate, royalties, partnerships or trusts. The couple’s taxable income was $5.6 million, and they owed $1.5 million in federal taxes.
An income tax summary created by the accountant of Beth and Sam Harwell, showed an income of $369,000 last year. The Harwells said they paid $560,000 in federal income taxes between 2013 and 2016.
Craig and Pamela Fitzhugh reported $392,000 in taxable income and $91,999 in federal taxes last year.
Fitzhugh said if he is elected, he will undo Haslam’s executive order that eliminated income disclosure requirements for the governor and his Cabinet.