Beacon Center of Tennessee

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Beacon Center of Tennessee
Founder(s) Drew Johnson
Established 2004
Focus Public policy in Tennessee
President Justin Owen
Chairman John Cerasuolo
Budget Revenue: $994,768
(FYE December 2014)[1]
Slogan "Changing lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government."
Formerly called Tennessee Center for Policy Research
Coordinates 36°09′50″N 86°46′46″W / 36.1639°N 86.7794°W / 36.1639; -86.7794Coordinates: 36°09′50″N 86°46′46″W / 36.1639°N 86.7794°W / 36.1639; -86.7794
Address 201 4th Ave N, S-1820
Nashville, TN 37219
Website Official website

The Beacon Center of Tennessee, formerly the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR), is a non-profit free-market[2] think tank based in Nashville, Tennessee.[3][4] The organization's stated mission is to "empower Tennesseans to reclaim control of their lives, so that they can freely pursue their version of the American Dream."[5] The Center's research areas include tax and economic policy, education policy, and healthcare policy. The organization is a member of the State Policy Network.[6]

In 2007 TCPR issued a report asserting that Al Gore's residence in Belle Meade, Tennessee, used more than 20 times the energy of a typical home in the United States.[7][8] It supported the repeal of Tennessee's estate tax and has advocated for tort reform and school choice and against civil forfeiture.[9]

History and overview[edit]

TCPR was founded in 2004 by Drew Johnson.[6][10] Johnson left TCPR at the end of 2009.[11] Justin Owen became president in August 2010.[12]

TCPR estimated that its 2008 income would total about $400,000 for the year, roughly double its previous year's finances. The increase from 2007 to 2008 was attributed to publicity from its 2007 report on Al Gore's energy use.[6] The organization received $481,000 in donations in 2012, with contributions totaling $1.2 million in 2013. The Beacon Center receives 54 percent of its funding from foundations, 43 percent from individual donors, 1.5 percent from corporate donations and 1.5 percent from other sources.[9]

In September 2011, the organization announced that it had changed its name to "Beacon Center of Tennessee." In a message to supporters, president Justin Owen indicated that the new name would represent the organization's new mission, "to light the way for freedom and prosperity" in the state.[13]

The Beacon Center is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a U.S. network of state-specific free-market oriented think tanks.[14] SPN provides funding, training and other support for its member groups.[6]

Activities and positions[edit]

The Beacon Center publicizes its views through publications, press releases, media interviews, and guest columns. Its publications include the annual Tennessee Pork Report (co-published with Citizens Against Government Waste)[15] and a Legislators’ Guide to the Issues.[16][17]

Fiscal issues[edit]

Beacon supports reductions in state government spending and the elimination or reduction of several Tennessee state taxes.

The organization supports an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution to ban a state income tax in order to "quash...attempts to pass such a tax once and for all." In its 2011 Legislator's Guide, the organization asserted that "every single day 20,000 taxpayers flee states with income taxes to settle in [one of the nine] non-income tax states," including Tennessee. Beacon states that preventing the enactment of an income tax is "in the best interest of Tennesseans and is the longstanding policy of the state," so a constitutional amendment would clarify the state's constitution.[17] In 2014, Tennessee citizens voted for a constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax.[18] In 2012, the Beacon Center was involved in repealing Tennessee's inheritance tax.[9]

Beacon advocates reducing or eliminating Tennessee's 5.5 percent sales tax on groceries and reducing its 62 cents per pack tax on cigarettes and 21.4 cents per gallon tax on gasoline. Beacon notes that each of these Tennessee taxes is higher than the corresponding tax in several of the eight states bordering Tennessee and states that the tax differential "drives Tennessee residents to neighboring states" to buy the affected items.[17]

In April 2011, Beacon president Justin Owen was quoted in the Knoxville News Sentinel as saying that Tennessee's heavy reliance on sales tax is advantageous during an economic slowdown because it is a more stable revenue source than an income tax would be.[19]

In 2011, Beacon opposed a proposal to extend unemployment insurance benefits from a maximum of 79 weeks to a maximum of 99 weeks. A Beacon press release stated: "Economists widely agree that extending the benefits causes the unemployed to remain jobless." [20]

The Beacon Center and the Tennessee branch of the American Civil Liberties Union have worked together to try to end civil forfeiture in Tennessee.[9]

Health care[edit]

In January 2015, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam called a special session in order to expand Medicare in Tennessee, under the name Insure Tennessee.[21] The Beacon Center testified before Senate and House committees[22] and successfully prevented the passing of the bill that they said would have brought the state billions of dollars in new debt.[23]

Following the defeat of Insure Tennessee, the Beacon Center began pushing for free-market healthcare reforms, most notably Direct Primary Care.[24] The Beacon Center says it is "focused not on extending costly government insurance to more Tennesseans, but instead on providing them with quality health care. Too much dialogue rests on how to provide coverage, but an insurance card alone does not guarantee access to better care".[25]

Open records[edit]

In 2008, the organization accounted for 16 percent of all open records requests to the Tennessee executive branch.[6] On one occasion, TCPR sued the state Department of Finance and Administration over delayed response to an open records request.[26][27] In 2008, state officials responded to a TCPR open-records request for email messages from the Tennessee Department of Revenue by telling TCPR that it would have to pay $3,201 for each day of email messages it sought.[28]

Report on Al Gore's house[edit]

TCPR received widespread media attention in 2007 for issuing a report asserting that Al Gore's residence in the Nashville area used more than 20 times the energy of a typical home in the United States.[7][8] Reporters who followed up on the allegations found that Gore's house did use more electricity than a typical home, but they also found that it was about 12 times the average for Nashville (not 20 times, as reported by TCPR), pointed out that the building functioned both as a residence and a business office for both Al and Tipper Gore, it was much larger than a typical home (four times larger than the average home built in 2006, according to, and that Gore made substantial improvements to the home during 2007 that reduced its electricity consumption.[8] TCPR personnel have said that the widespread attention to its report resulted in TCPR's receiving thousands of "hostile emails," as well as "a dozen death threats."[29]


  1. ^ "Quickview data". GuideStar.  See also "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator. 
  2. ^ Flessner, Dave (July 14, 2015). "High fiber debate: City officials, taxpayers group clash on EPB telecom expansion". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  3. ^ Chas Sisk, Beacon Center claims support for school vouchers, The Tennessean, June 5, 2012
  4. ^ Michael Cass, Day 2 of Metro tax increase poll data leads to questions about the questions, The Tennessean, June 13, 2012
  5. ^ "About". Beacon Center. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Jeff Woods, The Great Gadfly: How a baby-faced kid became the governor's No. 1 nemesis, Nashville Scene, September 11, 2008
  7. ^ a b Washington Post: War on Warming Begins at (Al Gore's) Home. March 1, 2007.
  8. ^ a b c Al Gore's Energy Use,, last updated 28 September 2009
  9. ^ a b c d Boucher, Dave (May 24, 2015). "Beacon Center grows, helps defeat Insure TN". The Tennessean. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Drew Johnson - President, Tennessee Center for Policy Research website, archived at on August 14, 2007.
  11. ^ Clint Brewer Now Top Dog At TCPR, Nashville Post, October 29, 2009
  12. ^ Justin Owen named TCPR president, Tennessee Center for Policy Research press release, August 27, 2010
  13. ^ TCPR becomes the Beacon Center of Tennessee, Beacon Center of Tennessee website, September 21, 2011
  14. ^
  15. ^ Clint Brewer, Justin Owen, and Daryl Luna (2010), 2010 Tennessee Pork Report, Tennessee Center for Policy Research, Nashville, and Citizens Against Government Waste, Washington, DC. Page 5.
  16. ^ Drew Johnson, Shaka Mitchell, and Justin Owen (2009), 106th Tennessee General Assembly Legislator's Guide to the Issues, Tennessee Center for Policy Research, Nashville.
  17. ^ a b c Justin Owen, Allyn Milojevich, and Jourdon Causseaux (2011), 107th Tennessee General Assembly Legislator's Guide to the Issues, Tennessee Center for Policy Research, Nashville.
  18. ^ "Tennessee Income Tax Prohibition, Amendment 3 (2014) - Ballotpedia". Retrieved 2016-03-04. 
  19. ^ Josh Flory, Tennessee's levy burden well below other states, Knoxville News Sentinel, April 17, 2011
  20. ^ TCPR opposes unemployment benefits extension, Tennessee Center for Policy Research, press release, May 18, 2011
  21. ^ "Two more reasons to leave Insure Tennessee in the dust -". Retrieved 2016-03-04. 
  22. ^ "Beacon Center grows, helps defeat Insure TN". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2016-03-04. 
  23. ^ Sisk, Blake Farmer, Chas. "First Vote Kills Insure Tennessee Medicaid Expansion". Retrieved 2016-03-04. 
  24. ^ "Tennessee Direct Primary Care Bill". Medical Access For America - Direct Primary Care. Retrieved 2016-03-04. 
  25. ^ "Justin Owen: Direct Primary Care better than health insurance". Retrieved 2016-03-04. 
  26. ^ Jayme Siemer , TN Leg: Transparency is great… for someone else, Sunshine Review Blog, June 4, 2008
  27. ^ TN Lawmakers must keep their emails "PUBLIC", WGNS Radio, March 18, 2009
  28. ^ Matt Wilson, Tennessee: $3,200 for a day’s worth of e-mails?, Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 27, 2008
  29. ^ Drew Johnson, Climate Change “Cures” are Worse than the Illness Archived July 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine., Tennessean, December 13, 2009; archived on TCPR website.[dead link]

External links[edit]