A nightly click of the television remote through national news talk shows will give you a quick understanding of the words “political spin.” Paid professionals are on just about every news talk show spinning a yarn, based on the latest polls, designed to sway voters to their viewpoint. It is not a pretty side of politics.
It was either spin, or a misunderstanding of the facts, that I thought of when reading the statements made by Democrat Andrae McGary who is seeking to serve Senate District 10 in the Tennessee General Assembly. His inference that there is gridlock in the Tennessee Legislature could not be further from the truth. As a legislator, I can assure you that both the Senate, under the leadership of Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, and the House, under the leadership of House Speaker Beth Harwell, thankfully find common ground on the vast majority of issues before us.
But, the proof is in the pudding -- and the results of the tremendous cooperation that now exists between the two houses of the legislature and Gov. Bill Haslam has yielded great opportunities for the people of this state, starting with jobs. The General Assembly, which was led by both a Republican majority and Republican governor for the first time in recent history, worked together diligently to create a business climate that enhances economic growth in order to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. A report released by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development showed that Tennessee has hit the highest mark in job creation in the last five years. Bradley and Hamilton County have felt the effects of that success with numerous new jobs as a result of these actions.
July marks the 12th consecutive month this year in which total collections have exceeded the budgeted estimates. This is a direct result of the efforts put forth to bring new economic opportunities to our state.
Businesses are also drawn to Tennessee as a result of our reform-minded education initiatives. Due to passage of landmark legislation, our state is being recognized as a leader in education reform in grades K-12. This is a fact that goes a long way with companies looking to locate within our borders. Many of these reforms, which had been stalled in the past, were only approved due to a great cooperative effort in our State Legislature. Gov. Haslam is now taking education reform to the next level in 2013 as he is meeting with leaders around the state regarding improvements in higher education so our students have the skills they need to meet an increasingly competitive workplace. He will find much support from the legislature in this effort.
Our unified Republican-led government has successfully implemented several tax cut measures, as well as a new law which I sponsored to improve government efficiency and accountability in our state’s boards and commissions. We phased out the inheritance tax, eliminated the gift tax, gave Hall Tax relief to senior citizens and lowered the state’s portion of the sales tax on food. This is in addition to a responsible, balanced budget that put forth thoughtful reductions and savings for the future.
Finally, several public safety measures were passed this year with the cooperation of state lawmakers that include combating prescription drug abuse, mandatory sentencing for repeat domestic violence offenders, and tougher sentencing for certain gang-related crimes and gun possession by those with prior felonies.
State lawmakers worked together on all of these important issues in such a way that resulted in our General Assembly efficiently finishing on time this year, which was the earliest adjournment date in 14 years.
Maybe Mr. McGary was thinking of the halls of Congress, but the progress we have made in the Tennessee General Assembly shows there is no gridlock at the State House. With cooperative leadership and the election of a strong Republican majority to lend legislative support, we will continue to move the ball forward in education, job creation, responsible budget practices and fighting crime. It matters who governs. And, under our unified past two years, we have proved why.