As Tennessee’s 108th General Assembly begins its work, we again call attention to the skewed priorities of the Republican supermajority.
Poll after poll shows that Tennesseans want action on jobs and the economy, education and health care, in that order. But what can we already expect from this state legislature? Bills to put guns everywhere, including into the classroom, school voucher programs that gut public education, a refusal to accept TennCare expansion, and more tax breaks for the wealthy.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate stands at 7.6 percent, which represents hundreds of thousands of people still out of work. And we know the unemployment rate for some groups, notably African Americans and young people, is much higher than that. Where are the Republican ideas and plans to help get these people back to work and the state’s economy growing? Instead, we have Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey introducing legislation to create higher exemptions for the Hall income tax on stocks and bonds. Where is the proposal to further lower the punitive sales tax, which disproportionately affects low-income Tennesseans? Where are the GOP proposals to fix our crumbling infrastructure, which could put people back to work? Where is the Republican support for the Tennessee First Act, that would support employment here in our state?
Rather than addressing the needs of Tennessee’s schools, the ALEC agenda is alive and well with Republican legislators. Our state continues to rank in the bottom 10 for quality education. But the GOP’s answer to this consists of vouchers and more vouchers and now, apparently, arming teachers is more important than helping them educate their students.
As for the Republican opposition to expanding TennCare, that falls plainly in the same category as actions by national House members, who just introduced a bill for the 33rd time to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Never mind that more than 300,000 people would be greatly aided by an expansion that would be paid 100 percent by the federal government for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. Resentment of a president who was just overwhelming reelected is apparently more important than the health of Tennesseans. It is nothing short of shameful.
Chairman, Hamilton County Democratic Party
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There are good points made in this article. Tennessee leaders should focus on education. Tennessee, and the Chattanooga area, is a difficult job market for young people.
But here's the main issue with all government work. Who funds it? Does the government truly fund the Affordable Care Act? The government's funding comes from taxes collected on American citizens. The government, and its citizens, are $16.5 trillion in debt. The government has already put every American $56,000 in debt. The current administration has no plans to cut spending. The current administration doesn't even have a budget in place.
So how can states cope? How can states increase revenue? By increasing taxes on commonly purchased items. By attracting and retaining as many wealthy business owners as possible by cutting taxes on the wealthy. Even at a lower income tax rate, these people still pay a larger sum than the less fortunate. These business owners also pay business taxes, licensing fees, and employ local workers. While their income tax percentage may shrink, their contributions to a community far outweigh any number of dollars they give to the government. Look at Volkswagen and Amazon - they've pumped massive amounts of money into the Chattanooga area. They fund projects that put millions of dollars into the local economy, and they ended up in Chattanooga partially because of tax breaks and other business incentives.
It goes beyond a dislike of a person in office. Resentment among educated voters comes from an understand and clear dislike of policy.
Aristotle's ideas express the best possible route of politics - everything in moderation. The far left and far right arguments are old and have run their course. With the national debt and "fiscal cliff", it's obviously time to rise above petty politics and move forward with realistic ideas and policies.
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The federal government and other states could well take note of the accomplishments already made by the Tennessee Legislature with its super majority: a balanced budget, beginning reductions on burdensome taxes, new business starts, a move toward less government interference and to address the concerns of the citizens it serves. All of these strides were made in the last General Assembly.
For over 100 years of domination by a party concentrating on more and bigger government at last the opportunity has come to prove what can be accomplished when effective and responsive government is the goal. This new Assembly now offers the opportunity to build on the positive foundation laid these past two years. They have already proven and will continue to demonstrate that it really does matter who governs.
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Memo to Paul Smith. We had an election. You lost. Get over it.