NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats ended the legislative session Tuesday having achieved several jobs initiatives while stopping bad ideas that threatened Tennessee families and workers.
“The differences in priorities between the two parties was often very clear,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney. “We were able to find bipartisan solutions and work together to put Tennesseans back to work. The majority party seemed more focused on advancing a narrow agenda that only created more problems.”
Democrats were able to work together to stop several ill-advised policies, including measures that would have increased class sizes, cut 5,257 full HOPE lottery scholarships, and enacted a 6,000 percent tax increase on solar energy equipment that would have crippled the state’s fastest growing jobs sector.
In their place, Democrats advanced a bipartisan jobs package that resulted in $25 million in funding for the Memphis Regional Megasite, unemployment benefits for trailing military spouses, and the Tennessee Works Act, which combines the strengths of the public and private sectors to get Tennesseans off unemployment and back to work quickly.
Democrats were disappointed that Republican leaders did not opt for a larger food tax cut, instead deciding to give wealthy Tennesseans huge tax breaks while promoting unlimited corporate political contributions. Republican members also voted multiple times to end Medicare in Tennessee through a health care compact bill.
“We had a chance to make a real impact on the lives of all Tennesseans through a significant cut to the food tax, but other priorities took its place,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle. “A significant reduction in the food tax will be difficult in the near future, but we will continue our efforts.”
Republicans also wasted taxpayer money on a number of intrusive, embarrassing bills while refusing to take full votes on issues important to all Tennesseans, including mountaintop removal mining and a voter photo ID requirement that threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans this fall.