Representative Eric Watson praised Governor Haslam's State of the State address saying:
“One of the most important things we do every year is balance our state’s budget. It is not an easy task, but one that must be done carefully to protect both taxpayers and the most vulnerable among us. There is no doubt that this budget year will be difficult; revenue is about $176 million less than expected, therefore, there will likely be cuts.
"However, the Governor is working hard to put together his proposed budget, some of which was unveiled tonight. As always, there will be some changes through the legislative process and that is why I am so appreciative to hear from constituents on budget matters that are important to them.
"While it will certainly take a few days to digest everything covered in tonight’s State of the State, here are a few of the ideas and issues discussed by the Governor which I look forward to addressing in the coming weeks:
Services For The Disabled
1. Governor Haslam will continue his record of strong support for the Department of Children’s Services and to those battling substance abuse issues.
· We are the first state in the nation to make support services available to 100 percent of our former foster youth as they transition to adulthood.
· Through our 41 drug courts across the state, we are working to treat substance abusers that want help in a way that is more productive than simply putting them behind bars and looking the other way.
Higher Education/Drive To 55
2. As part of the ‘Drive to 55’ initiative, Governor Haslam has said he wants 55 percent of Tennesseans to have a college degree or advanced certification by 2025. As discussed tonight, there are a few ways the Governor hopes to reach that goal, including:
· Expanding and encouraging dual enrollment for students across the state.
· Expanding the state’s Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support (SAILS) program to give students who need support in math that extra attention during their senior year in high school so they can avoid remediation when they enter college.
3. The Governor has attempted to work with the federal government to implement a "Tennessee Plan" regarding Medicaid expansion, but has gotten no cooperation from the feds so far. As we have seen in multiple case studies, expanding Medicaid to the limits proposed under ObamaCare will cost our state billions of dollars in the long run.
· Tennesseans having health care is good for our state.
· Our concern is that the federal government isn’t giving us the tools to do that in a cost-effective way or in a way that will ultimately impact the health of Tennesseans for the better.
4.The Tennessee Promise is a new initiative unveiled tonight that I am very excited about and that is also a part of Drive to 55.
· The Tennessee Promise is an ongoing commitment to every student—for every kindergartner to every high school senior. Our promise is that he or she can attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free.
· If students then choose to go on to a four-year school, our transfer pathways program makes it possible for those students to start as a junior. By getting their first two years free, the cost of a four-year degree is cut in half.
Marc Gravitt, Republican candidate for House District 30 seat monitored Governor Bill Haslam's State of the State Address online from his office in East Ridge.
Concurring with Governor Haslam's admonition that Tennessee is America at its best, Mr. Gravitt noted, "Our governor is committed to a strong fiscal discipline in our budget while addressing a key need in our state for job growth - a college-educated workforce."
Governor Haslam acknowledged the difficult balance of the two major drivers in Tennessee's budget as TennCare and Education with the excessive growth of our state's Medicaid program encroaching on classroom funding.
Mr. Gravitt observed, "Governor Haslam has done an excellent job during tough budget times to increase teachers' salaries while they've done a great job in improving student academic achievement."
Governor Haslam noted that since 2011, Tennessee has had the 4th largest increase in educational spending in the country to demonstrate a results-oriented strategy that has yielded the fastest improvement in the nation, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, the nation's report card.
Mr. Gravitt also commits to join the governor in reaching the goal that 55% of Tennesseans will have a certificate or a college degree by 2025 through dual enrollment, a stronger focus on college readiness and adult degree completion.
As a small business owner, Mr. Gravitt praised the commitment to end Tennessee's inheritance tax. "As a small business owner I support the governor's statement to eliminate the inheritance tax. The death tax is nothing more than double taxation and hurts family members who try to keep a business operational."
Mr. Gravitt is seeking the GOP nomination for the Tennessee House seat for District 30 that represents East Brainerd, East Ridge, East Lake, and Apison.