NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Haslam Won’t Oppose Sidewalk Honoring Former First Lady Conte

Gov. Bill Haslam says he has “no problem” naming a sidewalk at the bottom of Capitol Hill after his predecessor’s wife despite red-lighting the move as costly last month.

“It’ll happen. It’ll happen,” Haslam laughed when asked by reporters about the proposal Tuesday. “We’ll get that paid for, with state money.”

The Republican governor’s staff raised objections to the cost of naming the perimeter track of Bicentennial Capitol Mall — down the hill from the Capitol Building — after former first lady Andrea Conte, wife of Phil Bredesen. Former Democratic Speaker Jimmy Naifeh had brought forward the proposal.

“We cannot support this legislation at this time,” read the letter the governor’s office sent to Naifeh, a Covington Democrat, about HB3727.

“We recognize that your legislation may ultimately be amended to remove its fiscal impact. If this is the case, we will gladly revisit our position on the bill,” read the letter signed by Leslie Hafner, the governor’s director of legislation.

The two signs will cost taxpayers a total of $6,000 to label the walk as “Andrea Conte Pedestrian Pathway.” Conte worked as a vocal advocate for healthy lifestyles along with speaking out for victims of violence.

Naifeh said he would find a private donor to pay to install the signs if the governor refused to allocate state funds, but Haslam said that won’t be necessary.

“Let me just say, that was one of those cases where we put a fiscal flag on anything that costs money,” Haslam told reporters after speaking to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “Anything that cost us, we just said, ‘Hold it, that wasn’t in the initial budget so that will take some consideration.’ And that’s one of those.”

“Obviously, we have no problem honoring Andrea for the things she’s done, and it’s not a significant amount of money,” he said.

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