Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam made a campaign stop in Smithville Wednesday.
The Knoxville Mayor, who was first elected to that office in 2003 and re-elected in 2007, says he now wants to be the Governor of Tennesseee.
Haslam stopped by WJLE to share his views on various issues. "I would consider myself a conservative. I think in terms of believing in limited government, believing that government has to live within its means and understanding that while government has a big role to play that government is not necessarily the answer to all of our problems, I would say that I'm a conservative. Now I do believe that government can be an effective servant tool of the people and that's our job, to make sure we deliver the best service for the lowest price."
"The state right now has a $1.2 billion shortfall in the budget that ends June 30th. We're going to fix that shortfall by using our savings account, our rainy day fund and by using some of the federal stimulus money. The problem for the next governor is that money is not going to be there so you're really going to have to solve that shortfall. I think it's important that our next governor be somebody who is used to dealing with tough financial situations. Having been in business for twenty five years, having been a mayor where I've led the city in a way that our credit rating is the highest that it's been in the history of the city, our debt is 25% lower than it was when I came in, and our savings account is up three times higher than when I came in, I understand how to manage in tough financial situations."
"There's really two other primary concerns that people talk about a lot. The first is jobs. Unemployment in the state is above 10% now and in some of our rural counties its at 20% or more so this is a serious issue. Families are struggling. We need a governor who knows how to recruit businesses to Tennessee to create jobs and for the state's own economic condition. Again, since I've been mayor of Knoxville, for the last three years we've been ranked one of the top ten cities by the people who do those rankings like Forbes magazine and Expansion magazine, as a place to recruit and retain businesses, and as a place to do business, so I understand how to do that."
"The other issue that comes up big for folks everywhere is K-12 education. We rank 42nd out of the fifty states and if we're going to be the state that we want to be long term, we can't continue to follow the pack in education."
"I do not want to see us have an income tax. I actually think not having an income tax is a competitive advantage for us as a state. When we're out recruiting businesses and recruiting people to move to Tennessee, not having an income tax is one of our biggest selling points. It helps to have a full quiver of arrows when you're out there selling and not having an income tax is a big advantage. And if you look at the states around us that have income taxes, they are in as bad or worse shape than we are financially, so I do not think a state income tax is the answer."
"I don't think we can remove the sales tax either, just because competitive wise we have so many areas that border other states where you are at a competitive disadvantage. So I think the answer is to get a handle on spending. We have to live within our means. That's what we're asking families all across the state to do is to live within their means. Well, the state needs to do the same thing."
"TennCare is a big chunk of our budget. It's actually 25% of our budget and at one point in time it was creeping up to 31 or 32% of the budget so we really can't allow it to grow to become a bigger part of the budget. We're going to have to keep doing the things that we can to keep our rolls from expanding and making certain we don't have people that are enrolled in TennCare who shouldn't and making certain that we're buying medical coverage as efficiently and effectively as we can. But that's going to be an on-going struggle. We have to face that fact that TennCare is a big chunk of our budget and due to the cost of medical care, we're always going to be fighting with keeping TennCare where it's a service to those folks who need it but doesn't eat up too much of our budget."
Haslam is running for the Republican nomination for Governor in the August 2010 state primary. Winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries will square off in the 2010 November State General Election.