An estimated 100 million people across the country will vow this New Year to lose weight, quit smoking, start saving more money or stop some potentially destructive bad habit and begin a life-affirming new one, according to a recent study by Health Net, Inc.
But while some Tennessee lawmakers say they’re just trying to get through 2010 without making the burdens on Tennesseans any heavier than they already are, others have big spending plans even as the state’s bottom line is shrinking.
Sen. Douglas Henry, a Nashville Democrat, says his New Year’s resolution is to frame state laws that help Tennesseans live a “more complete life,” which includes more government aid for the poor and funding for children’s programs.
Rep. Mark Maddox, D-Dresden, says his resolution is the same as it was last year: get more money into the public school system.
But Hendersonville Rep. Debra Maggart, a Republican, says some of the projects and programs lawmakers want for their districts may not be wise or possible given the state’s cash-strapped fiscal environment.
Maggart says she plans to reserve her energy for pushing, in her view, only the most necessary pieces of legislation. “I’m not going to file a lot of bills next year because we don’t have the money, and maybe we have enough laws,” she said.
One goal that every legislator will agree to pursue this session — even if they differ on the best way to achieve it — is creating jobs for Tennesseans.
The focus for 2010 is “jobs and more jobs,” said Maddox, whose district includes Carroll County, which is struggling with a 17.2 percent unemployment rate.
While the national jobless rate begins to hint that the economy might be turning around, Tennessee’s 10.3 percent unemployment rate lands the Volunteer State among the highest third in the country.
Western Tennessee has been hit the hardest, with areas like Lauderdale County tapping out at 18.6 percent unemployment, and nearby Haywood County with an 18 percent jobless rate.
With the 2010 general election clearly in view, many lawmakers are likely hoping to wrap up statehouse business as quickly as possible.
“A lot of people are going to want to be going in to pass a budget and go home because it’s campaign season. There are lot of issues that need more attention than they’re going to get,” said state Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said his New Year’s resolution involves cutting roughly $1.5 billion in spending to keep the state’s fiscal boat afloat.
If the Legislature adjourns “without breaking the bank, and without breaking the backs of the Tennessee taxpayers,” then he’ll consider himself to have been successful, said Norris.