Democrats on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill are complaining that Republicans aren’t focusing on job creation the way they had promised.
Democrats say that after a summer of campaigning on the importance of jobs, the majority party – the Republicans – have abandoned the attempt to improve employment opportunities.
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh says his party the is one that has actually introduced bills to help job growth.
“… tax credits to entrepreneurs and growing businesses in Tennessee…And we have bills to give priority to those who are hired with contracts that are paid with Tennessee tax dollars.”
State contracts can be awarded to businesses from any state in the union.
Still, Democrats mostly soft-pedaled their criticism, noting they need support from Republican lawmakers and from the governor to pass any of their proposals.
Governor Bill Haslam rejects any criticism for not filing a legislative “jobs initiative.”
“We think you look at things that the state is doing that are inhibiting job growth. But I’m not certain that there are bills that we’re going to pass that are going to bring new jobs to Tennessee.”
Democrats counter by pointing to laws setting up mega-sites for industrial development, like the one that helped lure Volkswagen.
Other proposals by House Democrats include sales tax rebates for small businesses who are making investments, like buying new computers.
Democrats admit behind the scene that they toned down the rhetoric in their “jobs” news conference.
On the record, Democratic Senator Lowe Finney says the issue of jobs should outflank partisan divisions. Voters sent a message in November, Finney says.
“They want the two parties to work together on issues like jobs, that affect people at home – people trying to make it, day to day, looking for a job, looking for a paycheck, trying to pay everyday bills.”
House Democratic Leader Fitzhugh said the “jobs” news conference was intended to express disappointment at the Republicans’ lack of attention to the jobs issue. But when pressed, he came up with a number of bills that Democrats want to pass.
“We think there’s an opportunity for a small business to take advantage of a sales tax holiday to buy much-needed capital equipment, to expand their business, and we would give them a tax rebate on their sales tax.”
He says other proposals have a longer time line.
“We have a work force partnership that we hope to put together in conjunction with the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Board of Regents, to use their expertise in looking at how we can continue to grow twenty-first century jobs.”
Senator Finney says lawmakers have had to change laws many times to enable the state to attract jobs. He cited the creation of “megasite authorities” in East, Middle and West Tennessee.
“You know the governor’s making it clear, that he thinks job creation is gonna take one approach, and we don’t necessarily disagree with that. But I think it’s also gonna take, if you look at what has happened over the last four years, or the last eight years, there were specific pieces of legislation aimed at creating jobs. And again, I will point you towards megasite legislation. I will point you toward legislation that Senator Stewart had last year, that required certain types of state contracts to go to Tennessee workers. Those are the kinds of things that we’re going to have to be focused on.So, it’s going to take more than ‘creating an environment,’ of course it’s going to take that. But we believe, as Leader Fitzhugh said, that we have a role to play in actually helping some of these businesses get off the ground, and that’s gonna take some specific pieces of legislation.”
Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey says the Democratic job proposals are beside the point.
“If you talk to business people across the state and ask what they want from their government, they’ll say, ‘Just leave me alone and get out of the way.’”
“I’ve never seen a job growth program that created X number of jobs that really did what they said it would do.”<
“But providing someone a small tax incentive, or giving them a sales tax holiday, is almost hokey, in my opinion. So yes, there are things like that …that we can help jobs…, help train their work force. But those are the things we should be doing anyway, and you can tailor-make those to individual projects. But you’re not going to grow the economy overall by some government program.”