Press Releases

TN Transportation Coalition Announces Inaugural Members

Press release from the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee; March 5, 2015:

Initial recruitment effort yields 30 organizations committed to finding long-term, sustainable funding to meet identified needs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 5, 2015) – The Transportation Coalition of Tennessee announced today that 30 organizations, including the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, AARP and the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, have joined the coalition in support of its mission to educate the public and work with state legislators to reform Tennessee’s transportation fund.

The statewide coalition formed in response to the need to find a comprehensive funding solution to maintain and expand the state’s transportation system. Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer stated publicly last year that the state is in increasing danger of being able to provide only basic maintenance on roads and bridges. As a result, many projects aimed at keeping up with population growth and addressing needed safety improvements would be put on hold.

State and local transportation projects in Tennessee are funded primarily by state and federal fuel-tax revenues. These projects include maintenance, repair and new construction. Transportation experts estimate it would take an additional $800 million annually to begin to seriously address some of the backlog of badly needed road projects across Tennessee.

The coalition’s steering committee consists of the founding organizations, including the Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance,Auto Club Group/AAA Tennessee, Tennessee Public Transportation Association, Tennessee Trucking Association, Tennessee County Highway Officials Association, Tennessee Municipal League, American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee and Tennessee Road Builders Association.

Initial members include AARP, American Heart Association Greater Southeast Affiliate, American Public Works Association Tennessee Chapter, American Society of Civil Engineers Tennessee Chapter, Associated Builders & Contractors Greater Tennessee Chapter, Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee, Associated General Contractors of Tennessee, Concrete Paving Association of Tennessee, The Corradino Group, Greater Nashville Regional Council, Home Builders Association of Tennessee, Middle Tennessee Chapter of the American Society of Highway Engineers, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Concrete Association, Tennessee County Commissioners Association, Tennessee County Services Association, Tennessee Disability Coalition, Tennessee Highway Users Conference, Tennessee Paper Council, Tennessee Public Health Association, Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers, and Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee.

“These businesses and organizations will be a big asset for the coalition and our initiative,” said Susie Alcorn, executive director of the Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance. “We’re committed to working with state officials to identify possible solutions for this important issue.”

Participants in the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee will include businesses, citizens, community leaders, public officials and organizations that are interested in advancing Tennessee’s infrastructure in order to maintain our economic competitiveness and increase safety in the system.

“We will continue to seek out those who believe in the government’s fundamental role in maintaining our transportation infrastructure system across Tennessee,” said Alcorn.

For more information or to join the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, visit its website at www.TransportationCoalitionTN. org.

Education Featured NewsTracker

Quality of State’s Workforce Questioned

One of the messages that came out of Gov. Bill Haslam’s education summit last week was a complaint from employers that’s not entirely new: It’s hard to find good help these days.

Amid discussion about the state’s education system, a few attendees said issues preventing a labor-ready workforce ran a little deeper than what the reforms of the past few years have been getting at. In a nutshell, there’s a significant element of Volunteer State’s workforce, especially at the entry levels, that can’t do basic high school math, don’t communicate or take directions very well, have trouble passing drug tests and oftentimes exhibit a general aversion to hard work.

Greg Martz, a Tennessee Chamber of Commerce board member and plant manager at DuPont, said the problems facing employers are fairly straightforward. The younger generation, in particular, lacks “interpersonal skills,” which he in part blames on their overuse of texting and other modern phone technology. And they also tend to have trouble solving real-world problems, which he theorized might have something to do with an overemphasis in public-school classrooms on rote memorization rather than critical thinking.

Ken Gough of Accurate Machine Products in Johnson City agreed.

“Math skills are very weak, analytical skills are very weak, the ability to solve problems, very weak. Drug testing? It’s a real problem with the entire workforce,” said Gough, a voice for Tennessee’s small business community at the governor’s “Progress of the Past Present an Future” conference. “Just the understanding that they have to show up every day for work, on time and ready to go to work, those are things that quite literally have to be taught.”

He added that while some of these problems are “not primarily a school problem,” schools could help provide solutions.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, a Chattanooga Republican, said he’s heard it all before. A year ago, Gardenhire told the crowd of conference attendees, he made inquiries among representatives of Japanese-owned companies doing business in the Southeast as to what could be done to encourage the hiring of more Tennesseans.

While he had expected to hear issues with infrastructure and taxes, Gardenhire said it came to a “unanimous three things” that weren’t those at all.

“Number 1 was your workforce can’t do ninth grade math. Second, your workforce can’t pass drug tests. And third, your workforce won’t work. They don’t have a work ethic,” Gardenhire said he was told.

Gardenhire said all those are components of what he’s telling kids around Chattanooga when he goes on local motivational-speaking tours. He said he informs students that what they need to do to achieve success in life is “learn math, stay off drugs and show up on time for work.”

The invitation-only education forum was called by Haslam and the Republican speakers of the General Assembly, and featured several presentations on the reforms enacted over the past several years and discussion of the state’s education system by all of the major stakeholders in education, including lawmakers, teachers, administrators, parents and business leaders.

Haslam said that the plan was not to come out with some statement from the group at the summit, but that this was just the “beginning of a discussion” about what issues face Tennessee, how we got to where we are and what some “potential paths” are for the future of the state’s education system.

During one of the summit’s discussion periods, Randy Boyd, chairman of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, emphasized the need to focus on “talking about K to J, not K to 12,” in order to “be at the point where high school graduation equals college readiness.”

“Our alignment needs to be aligned with the workforce needs, not necessarily with anything else,” Boyd said.

Press Releases

Deadline Extended for Comments on Proposed Local Debt Policy

State of Tennessee Press Release, 16 Dec. 2009 (pdf):

Comptroller Justin P. Wilson has extended the deadline for providing public input on a model debt management policy for local governments until Jan. 8, 2010. Wilson initially set mid-December as a tentative deadline for collecting comments, but decided to extend the timetable a few more weeks to give people more time to respond.

After collecting more input from citizens, Wilson plans to submit a proposed model debt policy to the State Funding Board for consideration. If the Funding Board adopts the model debt policy, local governments throughout Tennessee may be required to develop and adopt debt policies of their own that are consistent with the model.

Wilson expects the model debt policy to make it easier for citizens and members of local governing bodies to get details about debt transactions, including the relationships between the parties involved in the transactions.

Wilson also expects the model debt policy to have provisions prohibiting an individual or company from representing more than one party in a local government bond transaction. For example, a local government’s financial advisor would be banned from also serving as the local government’s bond underwriter or bidding on the debt.

And Wilson expects all fees, relationships and contracts between companies, their employees and independent contractors to be disclosed under the new policy.

“It is so important for citizens – and the local government officials who represent them – to be able to access detailed information about these bond transactions,” Wilson said. “To make sure the public’s interests are being properly represented, these transactions need to be more transparent to outsiders and potential conflicts of interest must be eliminated.”

Wilson said he also expects the model debt policy to include some standards for the use of variable rate debt by local governments. And there will be provisions discouraging the use of excessively high “balloon payments” in later years of loans.

“My concern is that some local governments may be getting into deals that seem good on the front end because the initial debt payments are low,” Wilson said. “However, the debt payments rise over time, which can create a heavy burden for local taxpayers – sometimes years after the people who approved the deals have moved on.”

Tennesseans can review a draft of the model debt policy here: (pdf)

They can also make suggestions, offer comments or ask questions by e-mailing the Comptroller’s office at