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Press Releases

TN Funding Board Expects Low Revenue Growth Next Budget Year

Press Release from the Tennessee State Funding Board; April 8, 2010:

With the state and national economic picture for the next 18 months still muddled, the Tennessee State Funding Board is expecting only modest growth in the state’s revenues during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, the Funding Board expects the revenue growth rates to be negative, ranging between -1.77 percent and -1.29 percent for total tax revenues and between -2.31 percent to -1.78 percent for the state’s general fund, the primary funding source for state government’s general operations.

For the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2010, the Funding Board is projecting a slight improvement in total tax revenues with a positive growth rate ranging between 1.73 percent and 1.98 percent. The Funding Board also anticipates a positive growth rate for the general fund between 2.05 percent and 2.30 percent.

Even with these positive growth rates for 2010-2011 fiscal year, tax revenue collections still will be less than they were for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008 for total tax revenue and for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007 for the general fund because the growth will be from a lower revenue base. The state may not return to the 2007 and 2008 revenue collection amounts until the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The Funding Board’s revenue estimates are based on the assumption that the General Assembly will not make any changes to its current tax structure.

In a letter to Governor Phil Bredesen; Senator Randy McNally, chairman of the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee; and Representative Craig Fitzhugh, chairman of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee, the Funding Board members noted the difficulty of predicting the timetable for the state’s recovery from the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The Funding Board held a series of meetings March 19 through March 25 to hear from economists, some of whom provided specific revenue estimates and others who commented generally on the outlook for state and national economic conditions. After those hearings, the Funding Board publicly discussed the revenue situation at meetings March 25 and March 29 before reaching consensus on its estimates.

While there was general agreement among the economists who made presentations to the Funding Board that the state’s financial situation will improve, there were several complicating factors.

For instance, improvement in the state’s unemployment rate and housing start figures, which historically indicates an economic upturn, is not expected to occur very quickly.

Also, the economists said the loss of federal stimulus funds and the expiration of the Bush Administration tax cuts at the end of 2010 could have a negative impact on the state’s revenue outlook in the 2011 calendar year. The economists also agreed that states with no state income tax are faring better than states with a state income tax.

In the letter, the Funding Board also provided estimates on revenues expected for the state lottery through the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The mid-range estimate for lottery revenues is expected to increase very slightly from $267,050,000 in the current fiscal year to $269,950,000 in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, funding needed to cover scholarships and grants supported by the lottery is expected to grow from $287,500,000 in the current fiscal year to $387,900,000 in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Funding Board members expressed concern about the projected deficits between revenue collections and expected scholarship and grant needs. The deficit is projected from just over $20,000,000 in the current fiscal year to $117,950,000 by 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Members of the Funding Board include: Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, the board’s secretary; Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr.; Secretary of State Tre Hargett; Finance and Administration Commissioner M.D. Goetz Jr. and Governor Bredesen.

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Press Releases

Bredesen Launches Job Creation Plan for Marshall County

State of Tennessee Press Release, April 7, 2010:

Effort to Combat Unemployment Targets County with High Unemployment Rate

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today announced a plan to reduce unemployment in Marshall County by putting up to 175 people back to work using federal dollars available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Marshall County has had the state’s highest unemployment rate – 19.1 percent in February – for the past three months and includes 2,330 currently unemployed residents.

“This jobs package will put people back to work and provide some much needed assistance to these residents who are feeling the effects of this economic downturn,” said Bredesen. “One of the primary goals of the Recovery Act is to put people back to work, and I’m glad the state can bring this assistance to Marshall County residents during these tough times.”

The 175 positions include government and private sector employment opportunities that will be funded through September 2010 by Recovery Act dollars allocated to the Tennessee Department of Human Services. These positions include 50 highway maintenance worker positions within the Tennessee Department of Transportation and 125 positions that will be filled primarily by private sector companies seeking to hire additional staff.

Residents of Marshall County must meet certain income and asset requirements to be eligible for these positions. To be eligible, a family’s income cannot be greater than 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($2,030/month for a family of three; $2,444/month for a family of four), and their liquid resources cannot exceed $2,000. In addition, residents must have a child younger than 18-years old living in their household.

A job fair for Marshall County residents will be held Tuesday, April 20 at the Lewisburg Recreation Center located at 1551 Mooresville Highway from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Those interested in the job creation program who meet the eligibility requirements are encouraged to attend the job fair where they will have the opportunity view a list of available positions and complete an application for employment.

The Marshall County jobs package is similar to the program announced in May 2009 for Perry County, which, at the time, had the state’s highest rate of unemployment. More than 400 unemployed individuals found jobs as a result of that effort. At the Perry County announcement, Bredesen stated his desire to make this a model that could be implemented in other high unemployment counties and subsequently announced similar programs in Lauderdale and Hancock counties.

“The goal of this effort is to use Recovery Act funds to provide assistance where it’s needed most, Bredesen said. “Our state’s economy continues to suffer and thousands of Tennesseans are struggling. We’ll continue look for creative ways to assist counties with high rates of unemployment.”

Marshall County residents who need unemployment assistance can contact the Tennessee Career Center at Lewisburg, located at 980 South Ellington Parkway, or call (931) 359-9726.

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Press Releases

February Unemployment Rates Drop In Most Counties

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce; April 1, 2010:

Rates Decrease in 78 Counties, Increase in 10, Remain The Same In Seven

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2010 was 10.7 percent, unchanged from the January rate of 10.7 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of February was 9.7 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for February 2010, released today, show that the rate decreased in 78 counties, increased in 10 counties and remained the same in seven counties.

Lincoln County registered the state’s lowest county unemployment rate at 8.0 percent, down from 8.3 percent in January. Marshall County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 19.1 percent, down from 20.2 in January, followed by Henderson County at 19.0 percent, down from 19.8 percent in January.

Knox County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 8.4 percent, down from 8.5 percent in January. Davidson County was 9.3 percent, down from 9.5 in January. Hamilton County was at 9.7 percent, down from 9.9 in January, and Shelby County was 10.8 percent, down from 11.3 in January.

NOTE: Information will be available on the Internet; enter http://www.tennessee.gov/labor-wfd/labor_figures/february2010county.pdf

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Press Releases

Haslam Wants To Focus On Memphis After Gibbons’ Exit

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor, March 29, 2010:

Announces dates for Memphis focused visit

KNOXVILLE – With the culmination of his Jobs Tour, Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam today reiterated his commitment to work with Memphis leaders to develop a specific strategy for the city and expanded on his previous comments praising Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons’ candidacy for governor.

“Bill Gibbons’ dedication to Memphis and its communities cannot be overvalued, and with Gen. Gibbons’ withdrawal from the race, the city lost a candidate with a close connection to the city and who has already worked tirelessly to help Memphis reach its extraordinary potential,” Haslam said.

“General Gibbons’ commitment to public safety and education on the campaign trail was a message that caught all of our attention because of the earnestness with which he advocated his viewpoints,” said Haslam. “He is a true public servant with his city’s best interests at heart.

“Since the start of my campaign, my wife Crissy – a native Memphian – and I have spent a total of 25 days on trail in Shelby County, including a recent stop as part of our three-week Jobs Tour,” Haslam continued. “Throughout the course of the more than 80 meetings or events we’ve held in Memphis during this campaign, it’s become more apparent than ever that the city really and truly is unique, with its own strengths and challenges.”

During the Jobs Tour stop there, Mayor Haslam announced that he would return to Memphis in the coming months for a three-day focused visit to meet with local government and community leaders and to begin forming a Memphis-specific strategy for state government around what it can do to help in areas such as education, health, economic development and public safety.

Mayor Haslam’s three-straight-day Memphis focused visit will take place May 5, 6 and 7.

“Memphis is critically important to Tennessee historically, culturally and economically, and as governor I won’t let the state capital become insular and forget about our important city and region to the West,” Haslam said.

“Nobody in this race is going to replace Gen. Gibbons’ relationship with Memphis, but what I can offer is experience leading a city through tough times, a familiarity with and personal connection to Memphis, a unique combination of public and private sector executive experience, and a commitment to helping Memphis build on its strengths and overcome its challenges,” Haslam said.

Bill Haslam is the two-term Mayor of Knoxville, re-elected in 2007 with 87% of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, he led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city’s debt, tripling the rainy day fund, and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years. An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family’s small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee’s largest companies with 14,000 employees. His combination of executive and public service experience makes him uniquely qualified to be Tennessee’s next Governor. Bill is the right person at the right time to lead Tennessee.

Bill and Crissy Haslam have two daughters, Annie and Leigh, and a son, Will, who resides in Knoxville with his wife, Hannah.

For more information on Bill Haslam, please visit www.BillHaslam.com.

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Press Releases

Haslam Announces Element Of Small Business Works Campaign

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor, March 26, 2010:

Initiative will focus on matchmaking and growth opportunities for Tennessee businesses

KINGSPORT – Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam announced plans today to launch the “Tennessee First” initiative to create jobs by identifying the fastest growing companies in Tennessee and connecting them to in-state small businesses and regions ripe for economic development.

Speaking at an economic development roundtable in Northeast Tennessee as a part of his statewide Jobs Tour, Mayor Haslam expanded on his earlier announcement of a campaign to promote entrepreneurship and job growth in Tennessee through a focused effort on small businesses.

“Tennessee First is a significant piece of the puzzle and will be a critical step towards making Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs,” said Haslam.

“Throughout the Jobs Tour, I’ve heard over and over from local business owners: at the same time we’re recruiting outside businesses to invest in Tennessee for the first time, we should be doing all we can to promote job retention and expansion at the companies that are already here,” Haslam said.

The Small Business Works initiative will involve working alongside small business owners to create the best possible environment for starting or growing a business in Tennessee, while enhancing the state’s efforts to provide useful, timely information and guidance to anyone seeking to start a business here.

As an extension of Small Business Works, “Tennessee First” will include a concentrated effort to identify the 100 fastest growing businesses in Tennessee and connect them to relevant small businesses for matchmaking opportunities as well as provide technical support to the small businesses. The initiative will also utilize the regional jobs base camps Mayor Haslam intends to create by working to identify areas for businesses to expand or “outsource” operations within the state.

“There needs to be a strategic effort to evaluate the strengths and opportunities we have with existing Tennessee businesses and do more to promote matchmaking and growth within our state,” continued Haslam.

“When a Tennessee company is looking for a supplier for a particular good or service, we should make sure they can easily connect with another Tennessee business that can provide it,” Haslam said.

Mayor Haslam is spending Week Three of his three-week, statewide Jobs Tour in East Tennessee, and today he is touring Sullivan, Washington, and Hamblen counties. Friday’s events include a small business roundtable, facility tours, meetings with economic development professionals, and knocking on neighborhood doors. The remainder of the schedule for the East Tennessee swing of the Jobs Tour can be found below.

Bill Haslam is the two-term Mayor of Knoxville, re-elected in 2007 with 87% of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, he led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city’s debt, tripling the rainy day fund, and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years. An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family’s small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee’s largest companies with 14,000 employees. His combination of executive and public service experience makes him uniquely qualified to be Tennessee’s next Governor. Bill is the right person at the right time to lead Tennessee.

Bill and Crissy Haslam have two daughters, Annie and Leigh, and a son, Will, who resides in Knoxville with his wife, Hannah.

For more information on Bill Haslam, please visit www.BillHaslam.com. To follow Mayor Haslam on his Jobs Tour and submit ideas for how to grow our state’s economy, please visit www.Jobs4TN.com.

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News

Guv Candidates Agree Housing Issues Need Attention

Five of the six major candidates for Tennessee governor appeared at a forum on housing Tuesday in Williamson County, each making the case for how their candidacy connects with housing issues in the state.

And the most common refrain was that creating jobs can solve problems in housing.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, an auctioneer, explained that his experience related to the real estate market and housing goes way back. He learned about construction and worked in the homebuilding industry, he said. His business background in surveying and auctions put him in position to understand housing issues.

“I’ve been around the housing industry all my life,” Ramsey said. “I believe we’re on the cusp of that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan talked about. I believe in Tennessee we can be an island of sanity in a nation gone amok.

“There will be states nobody wants to be living in. We need to be a state where people will want to bring jobs and bring their families. I understand completely you are the force that drives our economy, and I’ll be very supportive of your industry.”

Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons said he knew what it was like to lose a home from his childhood, when his father left the family. He also noted that his father became homeless, and he sees how many factors are involved in housing issues.

Homelessness, Gibbons pointed out, can be the result of mental illness.

“The largest mental health institution in my community today is the Shelby County jail,” he said.

Gibbons said there were good intentions in trying to deinstitutionalize people who had mental illness, but that there wasn’t enough follow-through to provide community support to make that policy work.

Gibbons said the key on housing is to have good-paying jobs and safe neighborhoods. He emphasized his job as a prosecutor in fighting crime, which is important to stable housing, he said.

Congressman Zach Wamp, who had to leave the forum halfway through to go back to Washington, explained he worked in the commercial real estate sector.

“I know your industry,” he said. “I loved it. I was the first to get there in the morning and the last to leave.”

Wamp said new investments are going to come south and that the state needs a dynamic governor to help make that happen. Wamp, too, pointed to the link between mental illness and homelessness from his experience in working on a subcommittee in Congress that deals with veterans.

Democrat Mike McWherter, a Jackson businessman, said that when he says he has traveled to all 95 counties, it doesn’t mean just going to lunch with four or five people.

“You have to understand what the infrastructure is and what the assets are,” McWherter said. “We need a governor who will focus on the retention of jobs. The bottom line is we need jobs.”

The candidates expressed their support for the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, established in 1973 to support the production of affordable housing.

They also expressed support for regional mass transit. But as in other areas, candidates quickly added that the next governor has to be careful about making promises that can’t be kept due to severe budget restraints.

Democrat Kim McMillan said the state needs to be smart on how it goes about mass transit.

“Sometimes we veer off course without the proper planning,” she said. “This is a reason why our roads system is recognized so well. Planning is what made our road system what it is today.”

The one major candidate who did not appear was Republican Bill Haslam, mayor of Knoxville. But Mike McGuffin, managing director of the retail division of Eakin Partners Commercial Real Estate, spoke on Haslam’s behalf.

Much of the forum’s discussion was about foreclosures, which were the first domino to fall leading to the credit crisis that drove the nation into recession.

“We need foreclosure counseling,” McMillan said. “When you actually educate people on how to buy a home, to service a mortgage, it makes a difference in their ability to stay away from foreclosure.”

“Let’s be honest. We knew this couldn’t last,” Ramsey said of practices that were going on that led to foreclosures.

He recalled how people used to have to verify they were making enough money to afford the homes they bought.

“It was lax regulation, and it was speculation that got us to this point,” he said, in a comment that drew some applause in agreement.

“That doesn’t deserve a clap,” he said. “It deserves a boo.”

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Press Releases

Haslam Wants To Pair Up Students, Businesses

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor, March 24, 2010:

Will Work With Businesses, Postsecondary Institutions to Train Workers, Meet Workforce Needs

CHATTANOOGA – Speaking with business leaders, higher education officials, and economic development professionals during a key stop on his statewide Jobs Tour, Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam announced today a plan to help foster workforce development partnerships between Tennessee businesses and postsecondary institutions.

As governor, Mayor Haslam will work to create seamless transitions between postsecondary education and training and the workforce. Earlier this month, Mayor Haslam announced a plan to install regional jobs base camps across the state that will help align and coordinate local economic development efforts and produce powerful strategies to leverage each region’s unique assets.

As a part of the Mayor’s plan to improve workforce development efforts, the directors of these 10-13 base camps will work closely with businesses and postsecondary institutions to create partnerships that help businesses meet workforce demands and help university, community college, and technical center graduates obtain good jobs.

“We should constantly be looking for new ways to partner and create mutually beneficial relationships that ultimately lead to employed Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “Nearly 11 percent of Tennessee workers are currently unemployed, and at the same time, I’ve heard from business owners throughout this Jobs Tour who have told me there’s a shortage of available workers who possess the skills they need,” Haslam continued. “I believe there’s a clear opportunity to do more to help Tennesseans obtain good jobs.

“Throughout the state, there are examples of these types of partnerships,” said Haslam. “Right here in Chattanooga, TVA has had a long-standing relationship with Chattanooga State, which in the past couple years has been taken to a whole new level.”

At this morning’s meeting in Chattanooga, Mayor Haslam emphasized the special nature of the partnership between the Tennessee Valley Authority and Chattanooga State Community College that led to the creation of an entirely new degree program designed to help TVA meet its rising demand for radiation protection technicians. Chattanooga State has a Memorandum of Understanding with TVA that TVA will consider graduates for jobs, and with the first class graduating with associate degrees of applied science in radiation protection technology this May, some students should be landing high quality jobs with TVA in the near future.

“If we look at Clarksville, there’s another great example of this special type of partnership. The state helped foster a relationship between Austin Peay State University and Hemlock, who is going to be a major employer for that region,” Haslam added.

“There are opportunities all across the state to align the needs of businesses, postsecondary institutions, and workers,” Haslam continued. “As governor, I’m going to focus on developing these relationships as a part of my overall effort to create and retain high quality jobs in Tennessee.”

Mayor Haslam is spending Week Three of his three-week, statewide Jobs Tour in East Tennessee, and today is being spent in Bradley, Hamilton, and McMinn counties conducting small business roundtables and meeting with economic development professionals and local business and education leaders. The remainder of the schedule for the East Tennessee swing of the Jobs Tour can be found below.

Bill Haslam is the two-term Mayor of Knoxville, re-elected in 2007 with 87% of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, he led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city’s debt, tripling the rainy day fund, and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years. An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family’s small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee’s largest companies with 14,000 employees. His combination of executive and public service experience makes him uniquely qualified to be Tennessee’s next Governor. Bill is the right person at the right time to lead Tennessee.

Bill and Crissy Haslam have two daughters, Annie and Leigh, and a son, Will, who resides in Knoxville with his wife, Hannah.

To follow Mayor Haslam on his Jobs Tour and submit ideas for how to grow our state’s economy, please visit www.Jobs4TN.com. For more information on Bill Haslam, please visit www.BillHaslam.com.

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Press Releases

February Unemployment Rate Unchaged At 10.7 Percent

State of Tennessee Press Release, March 19, 2010:

Seasonally Adjusted Rate Constant from January 2010

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development James Neeley announced today Tennessee’s unemployment rate for February was 10.7 percent, unchanged from the revised January rate of 10.7 percent. The February rate a year ago was 9.6 percent. The national unemployment rate for February 2010 was 9.7 percent, unchanged from the January rate of 9.7 percent.

“The state unemployment rate continues to hold steady for the third month in a row,” reported Labor Commissioner James Neeley. “Both of our major employment surveys show net gains in employment, which is positive, but significant hiring has yet to occur.”

Major Changes in Estimated Nonagricultural Employment

January 2010 to February 2010

According to the Business Survey, 3,100 job gains occurred in state government educational services; 3,000 in educational and health services; and 1,900 in professional and business services. Major employment decreases occurred in mining and construction, down by 1,800; transportation and warehousing declined by 1,400 jobs; and clothing and clothing accessories stores decreased by 1,200.

Major Changes in Estimated Nonagricultural Employment

February 2009 to February 2010

Year-over-year increases occurred in educational and health services, up by 9,300; state government gained 1,000; and real estate, rental and leasing was up by 900. Year-over-year decreases occurred in manufacturing, down by 26,200; trade transportation and utilities lost 22,500; and mining and construction decreased by 15,100.

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News

State Budget Gap Widening

The State of Tennessee has dug itself into a hole this budget year, and most indications are it’s only getting deeper.

For almost two years now, the state’s economic prognosticators and financial wizards have overestimated how the economy would perform. Those projections are used by Capitol Hill lawmakers to guess how much the state will collect in state revenues, which in turn is used to plan government’s spending.

Today the Tennessee State Funding Board will begin meeting to discuss the amount of revenue the state can expect in the next budget year that begins July 1.

The board, which includes the state treasurer, secretary of state, state comptroller, state finance director and the governor, will also consider again revising estimates it last revisited in December.

In the last 21 months, state revenue collections on taxes and fees have been lower than predicted.

Constitutionally, the state can’t really skip out on a payment and take care if it next year. Tennessee’s guiding document prohibits state government from carrying a deficit from one year to the next, which means lawmakers have to find a way to balance the books.

In an op-ed Gov. Phil Bredesen penned last month, he wrote: “My goal has been to remain true to the principle of the ‘family budget’ that I’ve talked about since first becoming governor. It’s nothing more than the common sense idea that we’re going to adjust expenses to match our income and be very careful about using money from our savings.

“It’s the way sensible families have to manage through these times, and while state government is much larger, the principle is the same,” he wrote.

Now, lawmakers who are already trying to figure out what cuts they can live with in next year’s budget may have to consider more reductions to government programs, pulling money out of the state’s rainy day reserves or increasing fees or taxes.

The State Funding Board, which reviews and adopts revenue estimates lawmakers base the budget on, originally predicted the state would collect $10.29 billion this fiscal year.

After months of revenues falling short of those monthly expectations, estimates were reduced to $10.12 billion when the board met again in December. That change reflected predictions of negative growth between negative 1.5 percent and negative .25 percent in total taxes.

But numbers continued to miss the new expectations. In February, the latest reporting period, revenues were $638.9 million — which is $47.1 million less than the state budgeted.

The board will meet through the end of the month to listen to a handful of economists who will predict revenues, including Dr. Arthur Laffer, the famous “supply-side” theorist who was a member of President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board.

“The economy has been through some extraordinary changes over the last couple of years,” Comptroller Justin Wilson, a member of the board, said in a press release this week. “In light of that, I think it is appropriate to get some new perspectives on what we can expect for the year ahead.”

Members of the board will also hear from the same group of economists that helped developed the last round revenue estimates, including professionals from Tennessee universities and government offices, like Dr. William Fox, an economics professor from the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research and Dr. Albert DePrince, who teaches economics and finance at Middle Tennessee State University.

Bredesen’s $12.4 billion FY2010-2011 budget plan released in February proposes spending reductions totaling $394 million from the current year’s budget.

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Business and Economy Featured News

TN’s Big 3 Campaign Issues: ‘Jobs, Jobs & Jobs’

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam plans to launch a statewide “jobs tour” this week, and it’s safe to say he won’t be the only candidate addressing the issue for the next several months.

If there’s been one constant refrain by the candidates thus far, it’s been “jobs, jobs and jobs,” as Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey described Tennessee’s “top three issues” in a recent speech.

Candidates often have pet projects and special agendas in any election. Sometimes candidates completely misread what the public wants and needs, but candidates from both major political parties this year seem to understand the one thing most on the public’s mind is employment and its relationship to the economy.

Haslam, Republican mayor of Knoxville, has also announced that as governor he would create regional “jobs base camps,” where 10 to 13 “regional directors” in the state will apply strategies specific to each area. Haslam says his approach would “decentralize the home office.”

Given Haslam’s assertions that he has a conservative agenda, he was asked if the regional program would add to bureaucracy and expand state government. But he quickly rejected that notion.

“We’re not adding more people. We’re just pushing more authority to the regional level,” said Haslam, whose family owns Pilot Corp., known for its Pilot Travel Centers. “We want the right people to lead that regional effort. It comes from my conviction being in business that the more we pushed decisions down to the local level, the better decisions got made, because they understood the environment there better than we did back at the main office.”

Ramsey has said he wants a focus on small business as governor, to the point he wants every department in state government thinking about it.

He relies on personal experience, where after attending East Tennessee State University and wanting to be self-employed he knew he had to work for someone for two years to get a license as a surveyor. His plan was to put in his two years then immediately quit to go out on his own. That’s what he did.

“When it came time to leave, I said I would give them a two-weeks notice, but I was told, ‘Don’t bother. Go ahead,'” Ramsey said. So he left, and the next day his wife gave birth.

“I didn’t know where my paycheck was coming from. We started with only a pickup truck and a prayer,” Ramsey said.

So Ramsey says he understands the needs of small businesses.

Democrat Mike McWherter, a Jackson businessman, told an audience of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce last week he knows what the state’s priorities should be.

“Tennessee needs a governor who will put the creation and retention of jobs front and center on the agenda. That’s why I’m running for governor,” said McWherter, son of former Tennessee governor Ned McWherter. “Like you, I’m a business person, not a career politician. Like you, I understand what it is to make a payroll. Like you, I understand what it is to sit down and work out a health care plan for the year. Like you, I understand what it is to build a budget and live within that.

“If Tennessee is going to prosper, the next governor has got to be an individual with the skills and background who understands how to build this economy, how to create jobs and, I think most importantly, how to maintain jobs here in Tennessee.”

McWherter said it’s important to get greater accountability out of state government.

“I’ve spent my last 20 years in business creating jobs. In short, that’s what I’m all about. Job creation,” he said. “If we’re going to turn this economy around here at home, we’ve got to put Tennesseans to work, and we’ve got to put Tennessee businesses first.

“If you run an existing business in Tennessee, I have a message for you. I know you’re struggling. But help is on the way.”

McWherter’s Democratic opponent, former legislator Kim McMillan, speaks frequently of the need to capitalize on partnerships like the one at Austin Peay State University and the new Hemlock Semiconductor business in Clarksville, focusing on green technology jobs.

Republican candidate Zach Wamp, a member of Congress from Chattanooga, says that in 10 years the state should go from third to first in automotive manufacturing, and from third to first in energy technologies, including green energy.

He’s fond of saying, “If someone doesn’t make it, build it or grow it, you can’t service it or sell it.”

Wamp also sees an opportunity for job creation in a sector many Tennesseans don’t even think about. He wants to establish a defense corridor, capitalizing on the state’s military assets and using them as an opportunity to establish even more jobs. Wamp says a line of Tennessee military businesses and study centers would fall between Huntsville, Ala., and Fort Campbell, Ky.

Republican Bill Gibbons, district attorney general in Shelby County, focuses on the state’s standing in the region.

“I want to make sure we are above the Southeast average in per capita income,” Gibbons said. “Right now we’re about $1,000 below it and $5,000 below the national average. I think an achievable goal is to be above the Southeast average by the end of the first term. We also have an under-employment problem. The job of governor is to create a climate for economic growth, more good-paying jobs. The jobs have to come from the private sector, but the governor can lead the way in creating that climate for economic growth.”

Gibbons said the climate includes keeping taxes low, providing infrastructure for growth, reducing red tape in state government and to “go after the growth industries of the future.”