Statement from Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey; March 17, 2011:
I am writing to you today regarding a time-sensitive matter on which I need your support.
The state legislature is debating Senate Bill 113/House Bill 130, a proposal that would prevent government employee unions from locking taxpayers into long-term union contracts that we cannot afford. You have seen a version of this same debate play out in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and other states. Now it’s Tennessee’s turn.
As a conservative, I believe leaders should treat every dollar that comes into state government as carefully as we would treat our own. We should spend money frugally. We should tax minimally. And we should take conservative budgetary actions to avoid crises before they happen.
That is exactly what the Senate Education Committee has done in passing Senate Bill 113. It would classify teachers and other educators as essential government employees — much in the same manner as we classify law enforcement professionals — and end the use of union contracts in that field. I am a strong backer of this legislation for both financial and philosophical reasons.
First, we must take this step to avoid serious state financial problems down the road. For many counties in Tennessee, the union contract process is non-controversial and collegial. But in many of our larger counties, the process exposes the taxpayers to long term risks. And as we have seen in other places, financial risk for Shelby County, Davidson County or Rutherford County is a danger to every taxpayer statewide.
Secondly, I am convinced that ending the practice of factory-style, iron-clad, union contracts in education is essential to meaningful reform of our schools. The union lobbyists who benefit from union contract laws are the same lobbyists who strangle every attempt to pay our best teachers more — and reward them for their great performance. A one-size-fits-all union contract will always penalize the most talented educators and prevent us from ensuring the best results for our children. I have great respect for our state’s talented educators. I believe they deserve to be treated and compensated like the professionals they are and that’s why I am working hard to bring our laws into the 21st century.
As Republicans, we worked very hard to win the trust of Tennesseans and the responsibility of governing as the majority party in the State Capitol. We must honor the trust of the Tennesseans who sent us here by implementing the common-sense, conservative philosophy of our state’s people. Stand with me in this cause to make sure we as Republicans are who we say we are. Let your voice be heard in Nashville today.
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey