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Haslam on Romney’s ’47 Percent’ Remark: Government Should ‘Care About Everyone’

Gov. Bill Haslam may be firmly in Mitt Romney’s corner, but he said he disagrees with the GOP presidential candidate’s comment about how 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and therefore, would probably not vote for him.

“I think he made a statement about, ‘Hey, it might be hard to win some folks’ votes,’” Haslam told reporters after a groundbreaking ceremony in Nashville Wednesday.

“I think our responsibility in government obviously is to care about everyone. I’ll say this: There’s videos of a lot of candidates. You had President Obama say when he was running, ‘There’s just people who just cling to guns and God,’ and I think he’d go back and say, ‘That’s not quite what I meant by that.’”

Haslam added that the comments were likely part of the Romney team’s “political calculus” in terms of where he has the best chance to win votes.

Romney in his 47 percent remark was referencing the share of Americans who do not pay income tax, a stat that has been widely confirmed. Romney acknowledged he could have made his point more elegantly after a furor erupted over the statement.

Press Releases

Hagerty Takes Leave to Campaign for Romney

Press release from the Department of Economic & Community Development; Sept. 10, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bill Hagerty will take a temporary leave of absence to volunteer as a member of the Romney/Ryan presidential readiness team in Washington, D.C.

Hagerty’s unpaid leave will run from Monday, September 17 through Tuesday, November 6. Despite the scheduled time away, he will be in Nashville October 18 and 19 to oversee the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development.

The presidential readiness team is led by former Gov. Mike Leavitt of Utah. Hagerty served in a similar role for the 2008 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

“Bill’s background makes him a logical choice to serve in this role,” Haslam said. “He will do a great job.”

Deputy to the Governor Claude Ramsey will assume oversight of the department during Hagerty’s leave of absence.

“Creating and growing Tennessee jobs is a top priority for our administration, and I appreciate Claude for his willingness to serve in this capacity in the upcoming weeks,” Haslam continued. “His experience will be an asset to the department as we continue to focus on new jobs in Tennessee.”

Hagerty will return to the department on Wednesday, November 7.

Press Releases

TNDP: Questionable if TN GOP will Protect Senior Citizen Health Care Benefits

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; August 30, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan aren’t the only Republican politicians with a plan to end Medicare as we know it.

Earlier this year, Tennessee Republicans, including state Rep. Jim Gotto, co-sponsored the Health Care Compact bill (HB0369/SB0326), an extreme measure that endangers the health benefits of 800,000 Tennessee seniors enrolled in Medicare and shifts management of their health care plans to TennCare.

Tennessee seniors now want to know if Republican Senate candidate Steve Dickerson and House candidates Charles Williamson, Ben Claybaker and Robert Duvall will support controversial entitlement reforms such as turning Medicare into a privatized voucher program or the state Republican plan to have TennCare take over Medicare.

“Voters assume Dickerson, Williamson, Claybaker and Duvall will fall in line with party bosses, like Rep. Gotto, who want to end Medicare as we know it and hand the management of their health care plan over to TennCare,” said Brandon Puttbrese of the Tennessee Democratic Party. “If these candidates are supporting the Romney-Ryan ticket, which is pushing for vouchers and empty promises that will swamp Tennessee seniors with increased health care costs, voters have to expect that they won’t stray far from their party’s anti-senior policies.”

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has endorsed his running mate’s plan to privatize Medicare through vouchers. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found the Ryan plan would cut benefits and raise health care costs for seniors by $6,400 each year.

“Tennessee seniors won’t support an extreme plan that puts their current health care coverage at risk — whether it’s Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan or Republicans in Tennessee, there are consequences for endorsing plans that endangers Medicare’s guaranteed benefit or turns the program into a privatized voucher scheme,” said Puttbrese. “It’s time for Davidson County’s G.O.P. candidates — Steve Dickerson, Charles Williamson, Ben Claybaker and Robert Duvall — to be clear with voters and explain whether they support these extreme entitlement reforms that pose a threat to seniors by putting their guaranteed coverage at risk.



Republican Health Care Compact Bill Would Force 800,000 Tennessee Seniors and 200,000 Disabled Tennesseans into TennCare or a Similar State Program. Under the Republican Health Care Compact Bill (HB0369/SB0326), beginning in FY13-14, the State of Tennessee would take over the federal Medicare program and force enrollees into TennCare or a similar state program. Not only would this be an unprecedented expansion of state government, this bill would increase the state budget by $11,505,596,700.[, accessed 8/15/12]

Compact’s Block Grant Funding Gap Endangers Medicare’s Guaranteed Benefit at Current Levels and Would Pass Costs onto Seniors. In a release, AARP Utah — another state that has enacted the Health Care Compact law — summarized two of the major problems of the compact, problems that Tennessee would surely face. The AARP stated, “First, the block grant would not keep pace with medical inflation, meaning a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to the state, as medical inflation is much higher than ‘cost-of-living’ inflation… Third, the gap between the block grant funds and the actual cost of medical care for the hundreds of thousands of people who are served by Medicaid and Medicare would be shouldered by the low-income, disabled, and senior populations who are beneficiaries.” [, 5/2012]

Indiana Republicans Excluded Medicare From Their Health Care Compact Law to Avoid Cuts to Seniors’ Benefits. Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, has a very complex position on Indiana’s “Health Care Compact.” Recognizing the that funding for the Health Care Compact is not designed to keep pace with medical inflation, as pointed out by AARP Utah, Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature amended their “Health Care Compact” bill to exclude Medicare from their compact. [NWI Politics, 2/23/12]


The Ryan Plan Would End Medicare As We Know It And Raise Seniors Health Costs By Thousands Of Dollars Per Year. “The budget resolution developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) would make significant changes to Medicare. It would replace Medicare’s current guarantee of coverage with a premium-support voucher, raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, and reopen the ‘doughnut hole’ in Medicare’s coverage of prescription drugs. Together, these changes would shift substantial costs to Medicare beneficiaries and (with the simultaneous repeal of health reform) leave many 65- and 66-year olds without any health coverage at all.” [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “Medicare in the Ryan Budget,” 3/28/12]

The Ryan Plan Raises The Eligibility Age For Medicare From 65 To 67, And Puts In Place Caps On Spending That Could Shift Costs To Seniors As Health Care Costs Rise. “Under Ryan’s blueprint, the Medicare eligibility age would rise over time beginning in 2023 from 65 to 67. In the future, seniors would be given government assistance to purchase private health-insurance plans or could continue to take part in the current fee-for-service model. Spending would be capped, meaning risks and costs could shift to seniors as health-care costs rise.” [Washington Post, 3/29/12]

The Affordable Care Act Preserves Medicare for the Future. Health reform found $716 billion in savings that didn’t cut Medicare benefits by a dime. These savings are extending the life of Medicare through 2024 by cutting unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies and rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. [, 8/24/12]

Press Releases

Ramsey: GOP ‘United’ Behind Romney

Statement from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; August 31, 2012: 

The fall election season has begun. The Republican National Convention has concluded and the party has nominated two excellent men to lead it through November and beyond: Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan.

I was proud to represent both my party and my state as a Tennessee delegation co-chair in Tampa and witness the introduction of this great ticket to the American people. Our Tennessee delegation had a great time sharing stories and ideas with Republicans from across the country.

And then there were the speeches. So many different voices all coming together for one common purpose. Whether it was the foreign policy genius of Condoleezza Rice, the inspiring social conservatism of Governor Mike Huckabee or messages from the tea party delivered by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, all the speakers were united in reaching one goal: electing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and ending America’s Obama ordeal.

As many of you may know I supported a different candidate in the primary. But after this past week and after studying the record of Mitt Romney, I truly believe we are united behind the best candidate to defeat Barack Obama.

The Obama campaign will try and paint Mitt Romney’s experience in business as a negative but I believe the American people will see through these transparent attacks. Mitt Romney has a story to tell and it is one of economic recovery.

For 15 years, Mitt Romney worked at a company that took failing businesses and turned them around. He described his experience in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

“I know what it takes to turn around difficult situations. And I will put that experience to work, to get our economy back on track, create jobs, strengthen the middle class and lay the groundwork for America’s increased competitiveness in the world,” Romney explained.

Mitt Romney, for lack of a better term, is a turnaround artist. That skill is the number one requirement to lead America out of the Obama recession.

I’m excited at the prospect of a president who has worked in the private sector identifying new ways to maximize resources and solve problems. I’m energized to support a presidential candidate who speaks from experience and with optimism about the possibilities of our free enterprise system in contrast to a President who belittles the efforts of small businessmen.

Mitt Romney’s competency as an executive leader was proven once again in his choice of a runningmate. Many urged Governor Romney to make a safe choice and choose a bland figure who would make no waves. He instead made a bold choice.

Paul Ryan is young, visionary leader of the intellectual Right and one who has been unafraid to stake out clear and definable positions.

The choice of an advanced thinker such as Ryan shows that Romney is concerned not just with the politics of getting elected but with the policy expertise needed to govern. In his speech in Tampa, Rep. Ryan revealed himself as the perfect compliment to Mitt Romney and showed that he is ready to serve on day one.

The choice the American people have been given is a stark one — and that is just how I like it.

On one side, we have a man who spent a career building success out of failure, a man who has turned around companies and saved jobs. On the other side, we have a man who has taken a recession and turned it into a near depression all the while telling individuals who have managed success in tough times that “they didn’t build that.”

These two visions of America could not be more diametrically opposed.

In Tennessee, Republicans have proven that conservative governance works. We have proven that you can shrink a budget’s bottom line, cut taxes and still provide high quality services. We have shown that a state that pays its bills on time can thrive — even in the Obama recession.

I see the same principles of conservative governance in the Romney/Ryan ticket. I look forward to seeing a change in the White House and cannot wait to see Mitt Romney make America’s economic comeback his turnaround masterpiece.

NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Haslam Expects to Stump for Romney in NC

Gov. Bill Haslam may be clearly in Mitt Romney’s camp, but he doesn’t expect to make many more public appearances for him outside Tennessee leading up to election day.

Haslam said he expects to go no farther than North Carolina.

“I’ve already been to North Carolina once or twice and probably will do that again. That’s probably the closest neighbor of ours which is really in play,” Haslam told reporters in Brentwood Monday.

“I think that this election is really, really important. So if I can help in one of those states that is at a tipping point, I’m more than excited to do that,” he said.

Haslam spent the day before the Aug. 2 primary election in North Carolina to greet Romney volunteers and sit in on an agriculture round table, according to the governor’s schedule.

The key is pointing out the difference between President Obama and Romney, Haslam said, which boils down to a choice between “government that is going to make more decisions for you, that’s going to prescribe more things verses a government that’s going to take advantage of the things that have made this country great, which is primarily free enterprise system.”

The governor is traveling to Tampa, Fla., Tuesday for the Republican National Convention.

NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Ramsey Quiet on New GOP Candidate-of-Choice

With his first choice now on the sidelines, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has picked another horse in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, he’s just not saying which one.

While Republican leadership in the state has largely endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Ramsey wouldn’t say Thursday which lever he pulled when he voted early for Tennessee’s March 6 primary. He had come out as a particularly vocal supporter of Rick Perry even before the Texas governor announced he was running. When Perry dropped out of the race, after a string of poor debate performances, Ramsey grieved the loss and has not endorsed another candidate since.

“I still believe that Rick Perry, if you look at everything, was the right man for the job,” he told reporters Thursday, explaining why he hasn’t endorsed another candidate. “Now don’t get me wrong, he flat out blew it in the first two or three debates. But I think if you had a chance to start over today and draw a clean slate, he would still come out on top.”

When it comes to the remaining candidates, Ramsey said it was “eenie-meenie-miney-moe” for him. Asked if that revealed a lack of enthusiasm for the current Republican field, he said his difficulty in choosing between them was due to his belief that “they’re all equally good, not equally bad.”

A poll released Wednesday by Middle Tennessee State University showed a 21 point lead for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum over Romney among Republican respondents.


Press Releases

Romney Draws Support from House Speaker Harwell, GOP Caucus Chair Maggart

Press Release from the Campaign of Mitt Romney for President, Jan. 20, 2012:

Mitt Romney today announced the support of Beth Harwell, Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, along with an expanded group of Tennessee legislators working in support of his presidential campaign.

“I am honored to have earned the trust and support of such an outstanding conservative leader as Speaker Beth Harwell, and that of so many other Tennessee legislators who are working hard with her every day to support, and not hamper, the small businesses and entrepreneurs who are growing more jobs for Tennessee and our nation,” Governor Romney said. “I look forward to working with Beth and her colleagues to get our national economy moving again to create even more opportunities for more Tennesseans.”

“As a former Governor and business leader, Mitt Romney is a chief executive who knows how to balance budgets and create more jobs,” Speaker Harwell said. “Just as importantly, Governor Romney knows and is strongly committed to the principle that the states should take the lead on a variety of domestic policy issues which will help us right-size the federal government and protect our Tenth Amendment rights. I strongly support and endorse Mitt Romney for President, and I look forward to working with him to help get America back on the right track.”

Tennessee Elected Officials Joining Speaker Harwell in Endorsing Mitt Romney:

House Republican Caucus Chair Debra Young Maggart – Hendersonville

Rep. Harry Brooks – Knoxville

Rep. Phillip Johnson – Pegram

Tennessee Elected Officials Already Endorsing Mitt Romney:

Governor Bill Haslam

Former Governor Winfield Dunn

Congressman Jimmy Duncan

Congresswoman Diane Black

Congressman Phil Roe

Rep. Curtis Halford – Dyer

Rep. Mike Harrison – Rogersville

Rep. Ryan Haynes – Knoxville

Rep. Julia Hurley – Lenoir City

Rep. Curtis Johnson – Clarksville

Rep. Pat Marsh – Shelbyville

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick – Chattanooga

Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel – Parkers Crossroads

Rep. Steve McManus – Cordova

Rep. Richard Montgomery – Sevierville

House Majority Whip Barrett Rich – Somerville

Rep. Charles Sargent – Franklin

Rep. Mark White – Memphis


Press Releases

Romney-for-President Campaign Announces Haslam Endorsement

Press Release from the Presidential Campaign of Mitt Romney, Jan. 11, 2012:

Mitt Romney today announced the support of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

“Governor Haslam’s focus on balancing the budget and providing state services efficiently and effectively to taxpayers should be an example to politicians in Washington,” said Mitt Romney. “His priorities to cut spending, reduce regulatory burdens, and strengthen a business-friendly climate are key steps to put our country on the right path once again. I look forward to working with Governor Haslam to help spread my pro-growth message and defeat President Obama.”

“I am proud to announce my support for Mitt Romney. He’s been a governor and had the responsibility of leading as an executive by cutting spending, keeping taxes low and creating a strong environment for job creation,” Governor Haslam said. “He also has private sector experience and understands the importance of balancing revenues and expenses. Mitt is a problem solver, and what we really need in this country right now is someone that can tackle tough issues. With Mitt Romney in the White House, Tennesseans can be confident in a leader that is focused on creating jobs and encouraging prosperity for Americans.”

Bill Haslam was elected the 49th governor of Tennessee with the largest margin of victory in any open governor’s race in the state’s history. His top priorities are to make Tennessee the No.1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs by fostering a business-friendly environment for recruitment and expansion; to continue the state’s momentum in education reform with the focus on doing what’s best for Tennessee children in the classroom; and to ensure the state budget is managed conservatively and state government is run as efficiently and effectively as possible while delivering quality service to the citizens of Tennessee.

Prior to serving as Governor, he was the Mayor of Knoxville for eight years, and before entering public service, he managed his family’s business, driving all over the country to find good locations for new truck-stops and helping it expand to a nationwide business.

NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Haslam ‘Not Close’ to Picking GOP Presidential Favorite

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he has not decided whom to support in the Republican field for president and isn’t inclined to tell his family or members of his administration whom to support either.

Haslam said roughly half the GOP candidates have called him to say they would like his help.

“I’m honestly not close to making a decision about who I’ll support,” he said.

Haslam said he met with a group of business representatives Thursday night and so did not see a televised debate among the GOP candidates in Ames, Iowa.

“I’m like most people. I’m interested in the political process, probably a little more than most,” Haslam said. “I’m obviously interested in the Republican primary, so I’ll be watching that.”

The governor downplayed the significance of a widely anticipated Iowa straw poll scheduled in Iowa on Saturday.

“I’m not an expert on Iowa presidential politics, but I’m not sure the straw vote is the final word on where Iowa goes, or where the country goes,” he said.

Haslam said his family and administration are free to go their own ways in deciding whom to support.

“They’re grown-ups who get to make their own decision,” Haslam said. “Really, on this one, I haven’t said, ‘Please don’t get involved.’

“Other members of my family are trying to decide who they’re going to support and help. They’re probably at the listen-and-learn stage as well.”

Haslam’s commissioner of economic development, Bill Hagerty, was a national finance chairman for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2008. But Haslam said his only directive to his administration is not to do any presidential politicking on the state’s nickel.

“What I’ve said is, ‘Anything you do, you need to do on your own time and not take away from state resources and state time,'” Haslam said. “After that, I think they’re adults who should be able to support who they want.”

While Haslam hasn’t committed, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey this week said he will be supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Republican candidates who debated in Iowa on Thursday were Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, businessman Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. is an independent, nonprofit news organization supported by generous donors like you!

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Gabbing with the Guv

Following the swearing in of Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman on Tuesday, Gov. Bill Haslam fielded questions from reporters on a range of issues.

Among them were his views on the Legislature’s work in general this year, whether Tennessee should amend the state constitution to better accommodate the Tennessee Plan, the importance of prioritizing political goals, and his expectation that Bill Hagerty, commissioner of economic and community development, will stay on the job rather than leave for a presidential campaign by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Hagerty, a Vanderbilt University graduate and founder of Hagerty Peterson & Company merchant bank and private equity firm, served as national finance chairman for the Romney for President campaign in 2007-08. Romney’s Free and Strong America leadership PAC has been taking donations and writing checks. Romney currently leads a poll of potential Republican candidates in the key New Hampshire primary for 2012. The poll results were released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling.

Hagerty has a key role in the Haslam administration, given Haslam’s emphasis on jobs. With Romney looking like a presidential candidate, Haslam was asked Tuesday if he expected to hold onto his economic commissioner.

“Yes, I think we will. When Bill came, we talked about that, that he had obviously been very engaged with Gov. Romney’s last campaign,” Haslam said. “I said, ‘I need you to come and stay for a decent period of time,’ and he understands that. I don’t think there will be an issue. I think he’s committed to staying with us through that period.”

Haslam was asked to assess how the legislative session has gone thus far.

“This is obviously my first one, so it’s hard for me to be able to judge the ebb and flow of how things go,” he said. “But obviously I was really pleased that the tenure bill passed. We look forward to having our charter (schools) initiative addressed as well. Obviously, the budget is a key thing for us. Overall, we’re pleased with how the session is going.”

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has said he is interested in having language in the state constitution changed regarding the election of judges. The state currently operates under the Tennessee Plan, where judges face yes/no retention elections. Critics say the system defies the state constitution, which calls for the popular election of judges. The argument is that the retention elections are not true elections.

Haslam has said he favors the current system but seemed open to the idea of changing the constitution to put it in line with the Tennessee Plan.

“As I understand, what Ron is saying really is something that I have said as well. We need to make the constitution conform to what we’re doing,” Haslam said. “What I’ve heard Ron say is, ‘I’m not for electing judges, but I think the constitution should be clear and match what we do, so let’s bring that up and make sure the language matches what we’re doing.’ And I’m fine with that.”

The Legislature has seen a proposal, SB0620, die that would have established a nullification committee to review all federal laws for their constitutionality and have the the Legislature vote on the laws found by the committee to be unconstitutional. Another failed proposal is the “birther bill,” SB1043, which would have required candidates for president file sworn affidavits with information proving their residency — an attempt to address criticism in some quarters over how President Barack Obama has handled questions about his place of birth.

Haslam has shown no interest in such bills.

“Again, those are issues that we haven’t spent any time on because I don’t think they’re important things for the state to be addressing,” Haslam said. “Legislators can bring up what they want, and they will. I think the fact that neither of those went very far says most of the Legislature agrees that we have some other things we need to be worrying about.

“Ultimately, I think the big issues become the big issues, and they’re the ones that take most of the Legislature’s time debating.”