Driving Force Behind the Speakers

After a Union County Republican event, Betty Bean reports that driving Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey around is more expensive than driving House Speaker Beth Harwell around.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security provides security to both the Senate and the House speakers. Ramsey’s driver, Bill Taliaferro, is paid $38.71 per hour, while House Speaker Beth Harwell’s driver makes $26.65 an hour. Both drivers are eligible for overtime and retirement benefits.
Both speakers have 2011 Suburbans, but Nashville resident Harwell’s expenses are considerably less than Ramsey’s – $3,392 in gas and maintenance so far this year to Harwell’s $1,249 – because of his long commute.
“The Lieutenant Governor and Speaker retain their responsibilities and title throughout the year and each is assigned security (state trooper) for protective services,” said Department of Safety spokesperson Kevin Crawford. The troopers are paid per diem rates for lodging and meals when overnighting away from home.
…The most common justification for such practices involves pointing out that it’s nothing new. But Republicans used to rail against Democrats’ profligate spending when they were running the show in Nashville, so more than a touch of irony sets in at the sight of members of the tough-talking, budget-slashing new majority happily settled into the practices that they once deplored.
And the sight of state employees driving state vehicles to tote politicians like Mr. Speaker around the state to purely partisan events is almost as disconcerting as realizing that they don’t give a damn what we think.

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