Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gov. Bill Haslem(R)Tennessee~Falls Short !

Gov. Bill Haslam Falls Short !
By Eric Lyons


“We really are doing everything we can in Tennessee to create jobs here,” insisted Governor Bill Haslam (R-Knoxville) last week when asked about Tennessee’s growing unemployment rate by a reporter for the Nashville City Paper. A few days earlier at a round-table jobs discussion in northeast Tennessee, Haslam stressed the need for “elected officials who understand business.” As the former president of Pilot Corp. (his daddy’s petroleum company), Haslam should know a thing or two about business and job creation. Indeed, the governor ran on a jobs platform last year, concentrating on Tennessee’s economic needs and more or less avoiding adopting his Party’s divisive stances on social issues. But today Haslam, whose hands-off approach has failed to reign in conservative zealots in the General Assembly, is being widely accused of failing to deliver on campaign promises. In an interview with the Nashville City Paper, Haslam challenged this perception, countering that the legislators control Capitol Hill, and his real achievements as governor, such as his efforts to “to drag us out of the bottom when it comes to education,” have been overshadowed by the media’s focus on zany antics of cowboys in the legislature. Despite these attempts to disassociate himself from his ineffectual peers, Haslam has eschewed criticisms of Republican legislators, fearful that he might incur the ire of Party elites. “I don’t think we can create jobs by legislative work or we would do that,” Haslam averred when the opportunity arose to condemn the unproductive General Assembly’s refusal to pass ‘socialist’ stimulus legislation, but several other states, such as Florida, Alabama, and Colorado, have seen found success providing tax credits and loans to small businesses to jump-start their economies. In Tennessee, a dozen similar bills, all sponsored by Democrats, died in committee. In addition to tax credits and loans, the Democratic proposals would have favored Tennessee contractors for state bidding projects and created temporary tax holidays for small businesses. According to House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), the Democrats’ bills for economic development “just didn’t get anywhere … not even out of the starting block,” because the Republicans’ single-minded social agenda “took precedence over more business-minded job creation efforts.” Likewise, Republicans would not dare allow a Democrat-sponsored solution to pass, lest the Democrats boast a record of job creation once election time comes around. In an interview with Nashville Public Radio, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey claimed that doling out tax credits “social engineers where the jobs go,” but Haslam, to his credit, has pointed out that such ‘social engineering’ is necessary to focus on needy rural counties with eighteen percent unemployment. To Ramsey, what’s more important is “recruiting industry” and designing tax deals with big business “on an individual basis.” And yet, in the months since Haslam’s Democratic predecessor Phil Bredesen left office, Republican leaders have only hindered the deals Bredeson made, reluctantly permitting his agreement with Electrolux to build a plant in Memphis and actively trying to undo his contract with Amazon.com that built distribution centers in our state and freed Amazon customers from Tennessee’s exorbitant sales tax. The do-nothing Tennessee Republicans appear unconcerned with boosting small businesses or attracting industry; instead, as Haslam told business leaders, the General Assembly wishes “to make certain that what we’re doing is not tying [business] up unnecessarily” with regulations. And, in the eyes of Haslam’s Republican cohorts, one such ‘unnecessary’ regulation was a Nashville ordinance applying to city contractors that protected Nashville’s LGBT community from discriminatory hiring practices. Earlier this year, Haslam signed a law that nullified all such local regulations to remove the “potential burden on small businesses.” Though the move was supposed to help companies, the Knoxville-based Scripps Networks alleged that the bill actually hurt their ability to recruit and retain top employees, while the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, FedEx, UnitedHealth, and Nissan all opposed the bill, emphasizing that uniformity of law is less important than “diversity and inclusiveness.” Predictably, Haslam acknowledged the controversy surrounding the bill but nevertheless capitulated to the party line. While Haslam has a few years before he’ll be held accountable for his indecisive blathering, if the Republican legislators do not solve Tennessee’s rising unemployment before next November, they will no doubt soon find themselves out of a job.

Eric Lyons is a columnist for the Vanderbilt Political Review and member of the Vanderbilt debate team. He can be reached at eric.c.lyons@vanderbilt.edu.


Anonymous said...

so basically - small government only if you agree with Republicans. They completely disregarded the city of Nashville's right to choose who they do business with. What's Andy Holt up to? How's he "creating jobs"?

Stick a Fork in me, I`m Done ! said...

Dear Anonymous ; 9/14/11

As far as this writer knows, Rep. Andy Holt 77th. District isn`t doing anything constructive.