There was a statement made by the new Republican Majority in The Tennessean recently that said Democrats “play games with jobs.”
Last week, there was a jobs plan released to the media by the Haslam Administration. This “plan” was introduced after the new legislature and administration had been in town for almost four months.
In the meantime, other Republican-majority efforts, without question, have taken precedence in both Houses of the legislature, including stripping the rights of our teachers to obtain tenure, a protection that simply gives them the right to due process in protecting their jobs. Another pending anti-teacher effort would strip our teachers of their right to negotiate a contract covering their salary, benefits, working conditions, school safety, class size, planning time, time to teach, length of the school day, scheduling and other priorities.
Another Republican bill requires Tennesseans, including our seniors, to present a photo I.D. prior to voting. A bill is also afoot that would double state budget spending and allow the legislature in conjunction with a consortium of other states to cut Medicare benefits for our seniors.
While this was going on, meaningful bills to provide for tax incentives, sales tax holidays and the Democratic Jobs package for small businesses were scuttled, as was an effort to provide that state contracts should go to Tennessee businesses first. Not to mention, the state unemployment rate this month went up to 9.6 percent while the national rate dropped to 8.9 percent.
As the legislature heads toward its last weeks of work for the year, the Republican administration introduced this “new plan.”
Haslam says he wants to refocus efforts of the department of Economic and Community Development to developing businesses that already exist in Tennessee – a shift from Gov. Phil Bredesen, who focused strongly on national and global recruitment. Haslam’s jobs announcement also included pink slips for 60 ECD employees.
There is no question that we should work to keep and nurture the companies that are now in Tennessee. However, our ECD department needs to be aggressive by continuing the national and global thinking of Bredesen. To wait on out-of-state interests to come to us would be a mistake.
Just look at the list: Volkswagen, Nissan, Dow Hemlock, Wacker Chemie, SAIC.
The new Republican majority in state government continues to say that less regulation can do the trick. We believe there is always room for improvement in that area. Nonetheless, we’ve created a good environment already.
Last year, Site Selection magazine ranked Tennessee the second best state for business climate, corporate investment and job creation. We were also ranked co-state of the year for economic development by Southern Business and Development magazine and Third best place to do business by Chief Executive Officer magazine.
Bredesen told Site Selection magazine that a trainable workforce and infrastructure were key government responsibilities in bringing new corporations to Tennessee.
We have proposed incentives and we continue to ask for funding for the West Tennessee megasite, which we believe will be one of the sites of the next Volkswagen or Nissan.
Right now, it’s hard to tell our constituents just what it is this new Republican plan will do.
We do know people are hurting. They need employment and it is our responsibility to bring new jobs to this state as well as improve upon the companies that are already here. This takes not only new incentives but new investment.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville) and House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) serve in the state House of Representatives.