Statement from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; May 25, 2011:
The Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned for the year.
What a relief to write that sentence. While I can’t wait to spend this time with my new grandson and tend to the small business Sindy and I run, I’m also excited for Tennessee taxpayers.
The best part about the legislature adjourning is that it saves you money. The General Assembly has not adjourned earlier than this since 1998 – five weeks earlier than last year. Those five weeks would have cost the taxpayers an extra $450,000. Considering the transition of a new gubernatorial administration and new House Speaker, I am proud of how quickly and efficiently we attended to the peoples’ business.
I want to also thank the grassroots activists and stalwart Republicans who gave me the honor of finally serving in a General Assembly where a Republican governor was flanked by two Republican Speakers. It was truly a historic legislative session.
Working closely with Bill Haslam and Beth Harwell, two people with whom I share not only party affiliation but a common view of how government should work, has been an honor and a privilege.
I’ll be honest with you – it was fun. It was a welcome relief to finally work with people who “get it.” The governor and Speaker Harwell understand our values and principles. I believe together we have served the Great State of Tennessee well. I’m proud of what we have accomplished.
Across the country, people are struggling. Governments, as well as families, are having trouble making ends meet.
Tennessee has seen its share of economic pain but we are doing far better than the rest of the nation. We are truly an island of sanity in a nation gone mad. I aim to keep it that way.
The federal government clearly doesn’t have its house in order. Tennessee does and will continue to as long as I have anything to do with it.
For the first time in three years, the budget is balanced on a recurring to non-recurring basis. The budget we passed over the weekend is not only balanced but reduced substantially over last year. Our budget, already lean and mean, is now 3.7% smaller.
In a nation where the federal government describes the lack of a budget increase as a cut, our accomplishment this year is huge. This budget represents tangible, significant change.
That’s what this new Republican majority is about: making government smaller, more efficient and more responsive to citizens.
And unlike your average politicians, we started cutting with ourselves. Private businesses all across the State of Tennessee are being forced to maximize efficiency in the face of limited resources. It is only appropriate that we in government do the same.
I sponsored a bill this session which cut several redundant and unnecessary committees in the legislature. No services were cut, no oversight will be lost. The people of Tennessee will lose nothing with these cuts. Nearly $850,000 dollars will be saved by this simple streamlining measure.
It’s the ability to do things like this, affect real change in the way government does business, which sustains me. It’s why I entered the political arena in the first place.
With Republicans now in power, I no longer have to focus on trying to mitigate the damage of backward Democrat policies, I can lead the charge for positive change. It is a tremendous feeling and I owe you a debt of gratitude for giving me the opportunity.
Another outstanding accomplishment this session was the tax cut we were able to give our seniors.
Cutting taxes is a core conservative principle. In a tough budget year, we found an effective way to roll back the tax burden on those who save for retirement.
I sponsored legislation with Sen. Ken Yager so more retirees will have more of their money exempt from the Hall Tax, Tennessee’s tax on investment income.
Working men and women of modest means who have saved wisely should not have to see their hard-earned dollars taxed. This exemption will aid middle class people who live modestly get a break on their hard earned savings.
After last November’s elections, conservatives were expected to walk the walk and talk the talk on taxes – and we did.
A highly-paid, successful workforce is an educated workforce. Reform of Tennessee’s education system has been stifled for years by Democrat Party leaders. One union stood in the way of our children’s progress for decades in the General Assembly. Name a reform and the unions opposed it: school choice, merit pay, charter schools, tenure reform.
Our new Republican majority in the legislature not only supported and passed the Governor’s tenure reform and charter school agenda, we took the initiative in several areas of education reform.
Sen. Jack Johnson led the charge to eliminate the union monopoly in Tennessee’s education system. Teachers will now have a voice and teachers who exceed expectations and inspire students will be rewarded, as they should be. Mediocrity will no longer be encouraged in education in Tennessee.
The General Assembly also ended the scurrilous practice of social promotion. No longer will kids be passed along uneducated in Tennessee. If a child cannot read and write completely by 3rd grade, that child will be held back until they can.
We can no longer afford to be timid on education reform. The stakes are too high. The future of Tennessee is at risk. That is why we not only sought union and tenure reform we also made it easier for parents to choose alternatives to traditional education such as virtual schools and homeschooling. One size does not fit all. Parents need to be given as much choice as possible to ensure their children are educated.
Something Democrats will never understand is that the government can not “create” economic growth. They say we have no jobs agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth. We simply have a different philosophy. Our entire agenda, everything we do, is about jobs. Our agenda is about removing barriers and creating an environment where business owners and entrepreneurs flourish.
For example, we passed comprehensive tort reform this year. This protects businesses from frivolous lawsuits and manages their risk. This is the kind of thing that encourages business and makes job creation a reality.
It would be great if we could just wave a magic wand and make jobs appear. But we can’t. Even the recruitment of large corporations in the Bredesen years didn’t match the job growth that came from homegrown Tennessee companies.
The full recovery of our economy requires expansion and entrepreneurship within the state – not just relocation from without. This is why the new Republican majority and Gov. Haslam are focused on trying to make Tennessee the most business-friendly environment possible.
The government can’t create a good economy — but we in the legislature can get out of the way of business and create the environment that allows Tennessee’s entrepreneurial spirit to shine through.
Everybody knows we have an illegal immigration problem in this country and President Obama has done nothing to help the states on this issue. That should not stop us from trying to fix the problem – and it hasn’t.
We were able to send legislation to the governor that requires Tennessee voters to show photo identification before they can cast a ballot. The integrity of our election system cannot afford to be compromised. Tennesseans need to know that their leaders are chosen by their friends and neighbors, not aliens who have broken the law by entering this country illegally.
I’m proud to note that we were finally able to pass E-Verify legislation which ensures that new jobs created by Tennesseans actually go to those here legally. E-Verify, an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration, allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. It is free and over 97.4 percent accurate.
My primary goal in the legislature is to fight the regulatory burden on small business, but we simply cannot allow businesses to hire illegal aliens in Tennessee. This legislation will go a long way to stop it.
Looking to the future
That’s really just a sampling of the strides we made this year. Rest assured, there is more to come. With their first legislative session behind them, Speaker Harwell and Gov. Haslam have become very effective partners in governance. Together, we will accomplish much in the future.
Tennessee Republicans have talked a lot about what we would do when we took power. Now we are showing what we can do. This year was just an appetizer. Next year, and in the years to come, you will see the main course.
I truly cherish your support. We have done remarkable things together. And I’m not stopping anytime soon. I hope you aren’t either.