Gov. Haslam demonstrates strong commitment to the Middle Tennessee business community
At the annual Governor’s Address on February 7, Gov. Bill Haslam continued to demonstrate his strong commitment to the priorities of Middle Tennessee’s business community. Addressing nearly 500 attendees, the governor discussed opportunities and challenges pertaining to transportation, public education, the state’s economy and economic development.
“This is one of the best times for Tennessee. We have the lowest amount of state debt of all fifty states, and last year, we didn’t take on any new debt. This year, we’re doing the same,” said Haslam. But he also stated that Tennessee is the fourth highest in the nation regarding business taxes, which puts the state at a competitive disadvantage.
Haslam outlined the details of his IMPROVE Act, which will provide sustainable funding for state roadways and bridges. The proposal would increase the tax on gasoline by $0.07 and by $0.12 on diesel. His proposal, however, also includes several tax cuts for Tennessee citizens and businesses, including a $270 million reduction in sales tax on groceries, a $113 million reduction of the excise taxes on manufacturers and cutting the Hall Income Tax on investments over the next two years.
In addition to the various tax increases and cuts, Haslam’s plan also includes enabling language whereby counties could assess a surcharge dedicated to transit projects, subject to a public referendum. “Everyone knows we have to do something about transit, and everyone knows it comes with a big price tag. The state cannot carry this load by itself,” said Haslam.
As in his State of the State address, Haslam also pointed to higher education challenges and opportunities. Adult degree attainment is critical to our region’s workforce demands, and since Haslam took office in 2011, an additional $1.3 billion dollars has been dedicated to public education. Haslam also noted that Tennessee is the fastest-improving state in the country in K-12 education, and more than 30,000 additional students are in college because of Tennessee Promise, the last-dollar community college scholarship program. Additionally, through the proposed Tennessee Reconnect Act, the state would be the first in the nation to offer all adult citizens the chance to earn a tuition-free postsecondary two-year degree or certificate.
In addition to hearing Haslam’s priorities, Nashville Area Chamber volunteer Mark Hamilton with Dekalb Office shared the highlights of the Chamber’s 2017 state legislative agenda. Lee Harrell, the Nashville Chamber’s VP of State Policy, demonstrated an online legislative business tool, Middle Tennessee Business Voice, where members, advocacy partners and community leaders are able to view the status of legislative priorities and have their voice heard on legislation. Through this online portal, users are also able to reach specific legislators as they advocate for or against a particular bill.
The growth of the Nashville region over the last two decades has not been by accident. It has been successful due to the deliberate and intentional planning by our business community and leaders across all Middle Tennessee counties.