Tag Archives: bredesen

Bredesen to UT Students: 50-cent Gas Tax Increase Not a Great Idea

University of Tennessee graduate students got some practical advice for their national energy policy ideas that might be politically unpopular from two former public figures who have governed in the real world, reports Georgiana Vines.
The occasion was Thursday when presentations by a policy studies class in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education were made to the center’s namesake, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, acting the role of “president.”
Then walked in his friend and “vice president,” former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who’s also been a U.S. secretary of energy and a diplomat. Richardson was in Knoxville as a guest of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
…On increasing the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, the students recommended a 50-cent increase as a “shock” price that would see consumption go down initially; then, as consumers got used to it and started purchasing gas again, another increase would be imposed.
Bredesen said the amount might not seem like much, but when people have limited income and also need transportation, it’s not an easy idea to sell.
“This is a very privileged group of people,” Bredesen said, speaking of the students. “When you present your ideas in the public sector, you’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of those who are not.”
Think of a single mom with a kid at home, he told them.
“She’s spending a dime and then some to stay afloat,” Bredesen said.

Sundquist, Bredesen & Haslam Hold Civil Discourse

Gov. Bill Haslam and his predecessors — former Govs. Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist — concurred Thursday night during a panel discussion in Knoxville that the lack of dignified civil debate and, animus among politicians and voters has proved toxic in government’s ability to get things done.
Further from the News Sentinel:
The 90-minute panel discussion on “Balancing Civility and Free Expression,” the third of three civility forums across the state, drew an overflow crowd at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy on the University of Tennessee campus.
Haslam said he has heard pleas of “please solve problems” from people across the state who have tired of the often partisan infighting, both in Tennessee and on the national level, while government grinds to a halt.
“These issues are too big to turn into petty food fights,” said Haslam.
…Sundquist said that being civil is not a sign of weakness.
“Civility is respecting the rights of others to have opinions and expressing those opinions to arrive at solutions,” Sundquist said.
“Is it possible to reduce the meanness? We have to demand it.”
Haslam, whose first political job was opening letters at Baker’s office in 1978, said civility starts with familiarity — something that’s missing all too often these days.
“The principle holds if you get the relationship right, other things tend to work out,” Haslam said.
Bredesen said incivility is nothing new.
“We have had periods in the past that were very uncivil,” Bredesen said. “I think of it more of a symptom of something else in society. What is it about American society today that people are frustrated with? I sense that people’s needs aren’t being met.”

History Repeating Itself at DCS?

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen fired Michael Miller as commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services in 2003 and named another commissioner, Gina Lodge of the Department of Human Services, to serve as his interim successor.
About a decade later, we find Gov. Bill Haslam accepting the resignation of DCS Commissioner Kate O’Day and naming another commissioner, Jim Henry of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, to serve as her interim successor.
A clear distinction, of course, is that Bredesen fired his first DCS commissioner, saying he had been unable to provide “the cultural change” that was needed and as illustrated by various critical reports with a lawsuit involved and media attention.
Haslam’s first DCS commissioner resigned on her own violation, acknowledging she had become a “distraction” because of various critical reports with a lawsuit involved and media attention.
Haslam says he did not ask for the resignation and thinks O’Day had done “a lot of good things” to improve the department. Well, maybe.
O’Day helped prepare a DCS budget for the coming fiscal year that executes what comes across as a turnaround from two prior Haslam budgets. Until the plan outlined in his Jan. 28 “state of the state” speech, DCS had been in cutback mode along with most other state agencies.
The new budget will add 62 caseworker positions — a contrast with continuing cutbacks elsewhere in state jobs — with higher pay for those already there and meeting some new qualification criteria. There is still some DCS cutting, but the department nets $6.7 million in new money and more workers, presumably where they are most needed.
After Lodge did her stint as interim DCS commissioner under Bredesen, the former governor brought in Viola Miller, who had run the equivalent of DCS in Kentucky, to take the job on a long-term basis. By most accounts, Miller was a hard-nosed administrator but got the department on track toward resolving its long-running problems.
In 2010, the last year of Bredesen’s reign, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, issued a report declaring DCS had “improved drastically” since a highly critical 2002 review. Some child advocacy groups said nice things, too, and a lawsuit was resolved with a condition that the department’s doings be monitored.
State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, perhaps the Legislature’s best-known advocate on children’s issues, says she often clashed with Miller, “but at least she listened” and O’Day did not. Jones says DCS staffers told her that Miller considered Jones “our worst enemy” in the Legislature because of critical questioning and at the same time “our best friend” because of Jones’ willingness to support DCS in areas where she thought they were right.
Jones served on the Select Oversight Committee on Children and Youth, which focused on DCS and which was abolished by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year.
The monitor making reports in accord with the Bredesen-era lawsuit settlement reported last year that, after a period of significant improvements, reform efforts had lost momentum in 2011. Which, of course, was when the Haslam administration took over. In fairness, the report blamed many of the difficulties on the department’s new computer system, authorized under the Bredesen administration.
The department was also the target of a new lawsuit, brought by The Tennessean with other media outlets joining in, over access to records of children who died after DCS involvement.
The hope, of course, is that history will further repeat itself and DCS will be back on track toward improving things.
Henry, the interim commissioner, is respected as an advocate in the general area and as a man with very good people skills. Indeed, the governor might consider removing the “interim” from his title. He had a relatively warm reception at a Senate Health Committee hearing last week, appearing after O’Day resigned the day before she was to appear before the panel under what probably would have been considerably more hostile circumstances. Maybe Haslam will find his own new, improved second DCS commissioner.
Either way, it’s a shame that something wasn’t learned from DCS history to avoid all this.

Continue reading

Bredesen: Higher Taxes Befall ‘Poor Schmucks’ Without Lobbyists

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen says small businesses suffer an unfairly high tax rate because they don’t have powerful lobbyists to fight for loopholes.
Bredesen said in a panel discussion about federal debt issues Tuesday at Lipscomb University in Nashville that while the United States has the highest corporate tax rates in the word, the country also has some of the lowest collections as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Bredesen said that’s because big corporations are able to influence tax policy in their favor, while small businesses can’t.
In Bredesen’s words: “It’s all the rest of the poor schmucks who don’t employ a lobbyist to get their special deal that are paying these very high marginal rates.”
Bredesen left office in 2011 after two terms as governor.

Bredesen on Purcell, Haslam, Collective Bargaining, Etc.

Excerpts from a City Paper Q&A with former Gov. Phil Bredesen:
On the Legislature repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers since he left office:
“I was a little sorry to see the Republican stuff, especially on the collective bargaining, just because it really isn’t an issue in Tennessee. I mean, this is not New Jersey or New York, and the unions really had stepped up, a little reluctantly at times, but they really have been willing to play in a way you can’t even imagine happening in one of the Northeastern states. And so to kind of turn around and slap them down, you know, solving a problem that we really don’t have, I thought was a little bit misguided. “
On what people think about him: “You take a poll about people’s opinions of me, OK, um, contrary to what you might think, I will do much better in the Waffle House in Lewisburg than I will on the Vanderbilt campus.
On his relationship with Bill Purcell, who succeeded him as Nashville mayor, compared to Bill Haslam, who succeeded him as governor. He’s responding to a question on whether there talk of clashes between him and Purcell are overblown:
No, I think it’s real. I mean I don’t dislike him or have some distaste for him. He had a very different style than I did, and spent what I thought was an inordinate amount of time explaining how he did things so much better than the previous administration, although I think most people looked at my years as a reasonably successful time in the city. That was irritating. But, you know, we get along fine. I see him at things, and we do that, but I sort of got the picture. See, I can talk about things now that I’m not in office. I sort of got the picture when I really worked hard the end of my time as mayor, which I also did as governor, to make sure there was plenty of dry powder financially.
…So I left them with a really healthy balance. Whereas, the usual thing in the past has been the mayor cleans the cupboard out on his way out the door. I left them a really healthy balance. And I think he had not been in office six months before they spent all the balance, and they were doing all these things because they were so much better at running things than the previous administration.
That was probably the beginning of the certain test during that period of time, but I would say Haslam has not — has absolutely not done that. He’s bent over backwards. I mean, I left him in really good shape, and he’s acknowledged that, and he’s continued on a very sensible course.

Bredesen Still Promoting Deficit Reduction

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen says citizens need to insist on a reduction in the federal deficit.
Bredesen, who served two terms as governor as a Democrat, met with reporters and editors of The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/TFJzGj ) Monday on behalf of Fix the Debt. The national bipartisan campaign aims to reduce the federal debt by $4 trillion over 10 years. The method would be a combination of higher taxes and changes in entitlement programs.
Bredesen said the group has avoided taking sides in the “fiscal cliff” discussions now going on and cautions against reading too much into statements politicians are making.
He said the more substantive arguments about the size of the deficit will come in the spring.

Whatever Happened to Phil Bredesen?

Philip Norman Bredesen is writing a book, crusading for bipartisanship and federal debt reduction, promoting the study of humanities, making speeches, keeping track of investments taken out of a blind trust and contemplating what to do next.
“I’ve got another career in me. I’ll figure out what it is in a while,” he said in an interview last week.
Three weeks shy of his 69th birthday, Bredesen joked that “I think I’ve gotten younger, actually” since watching Bill Haslam take the oath of office to succeed him as governor of Tennessee almost two years ago — an event he described as “sort of an out-of-body experience.”
Interestingly, Bredesen did not rule out re-entry into the political arena as a candidate for something in 2014 when asked about the possibility. That is a contrast to the latter part of his reig as governor when he flatly declared he would not run for any political office in 2012.
Bredesen says, “There’s no message there.” He’s just keeping options open.

Continue reading

Bredesen-linked Silicon Ranch Seeks Tax Break

Silicon Ranch — the company with ties to former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration — has applied for a solar tax break that is sure to fan the flames of debate over the economic development incentive’s future, reports the Nashville Business Journal.

The company’s founders include Bredesen and major economic development players from his administration, Matt Kisber and Reagan Farr. They spearheaded the passage of the tax break in 2010 aimed at encouraging the fledgling solar industry.
In the 2012 Tennessee General Assembly, some Republicans had planned to alter the tax arrangement in part because they were suspicious after those who put it in place started a solar company. Since then, Silicon Ranch has made eight applications for green energy certification, a stamp necessary to receive the tax break, according to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation records.
…Kisber and Farr said the company had not planned previously to apply for the tax credit — or any other incentive they had advocated — unless a new legislature and administration affirmed the legitimacy of a Bredesen-era policy. Farr, who served as Bredesen’s revenue commissioner, said the Republicans’ ultimate decision not to alter the policy “reaffirmed” it and led the company to consider applying.

Bredesen, Dunn Back ‘Fix the Debt’ Campaign in TN

Former Republican Gov. Winfield Dunn, former Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis and two members of former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s cabinet appeared at the Legislative Plaza Wednesday to declare support for “Fix the Debt,” an effort to pressure Washington lawmakers to reduce the federal debt.
They said former Gov. Phil Bredesen is also part of the effort, though he wasn’t on hand.
From Chas Sisk’s report:
The group has launched a $30 million nationwide advertising campaign meant to build bipartisan support for reducing the nation’s $16 trillion debt through a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. The Fix the Debt campaign will urge Tennesseans to sign a petition calling for debt reduction, but it will not donate to any candidates or advertise on their behalf.
“We here in Tennessee want to be absolutely certain that we convey at every opportunity the seriousness of this indebtedness and the responsibility of every citizen to be willing to speak up and speak out,” Dunn said.
Co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform said two years ago that the nation could reduce its debt by eliminating many income tax deductions, reducing tax subsidies and entitlements, raising some taxes and cutting others. The commission said its plan, which it released after more than seven months of deliberations, would put the nation on track to surpluses in seven years.
The recommendation failed an initial vote in Congress and has laid dormant ever since.

‘Greenbelt’ Law Benefiting TN Millionaires, including Bredesen, Frist, Hyde

The News Sentinel and the Commercial Appeal, in a joint review of “Greenbelt Law” records, report some of the state’s wealthiest individuals are getting big tax breaks under a program designed to help farmers preserve their land for agriculture.
The 1976 Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act, or “Greenbelt Law,” is subsidizing estates and hobby farms of business icons such as AutoZone founder J.R. “Pitt” Hyde, a Memphis multimillionaire, and some of the biggest names in country music, Wynonna Judd among them. Former University of Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer qualifies by baling hay on his $2.8 million, 47-acre Maryville estate.
Generous farm and forest tax breaks are in force for estate after estate along Nashville’s tony Chickering Road, though official paperwork at the Davidson County Assessor’s Office at times provides little evidence of how the properties qualify. Among the recipients: former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a wealthy health care entrepreneur; and billionaire Thomas Frist Jr., co-founder of Hospital Corp. of America.
Even Knoxville’s private Cherokee and Holston Hills country clubs have been sheltered under the “open space” provision of the law.
In some instances, the law is actually subsidizing the land speculation it was created to combat.
In 2009, for example, Shelby County’s Johnson cut 97 percent from the value of an East Memphis field for sale for commercial development and surrounded by a 127-room Hyatt Place Hotel, ServiceMaster offices and a strip shopping center. Annual taxes on the $2.99 million, 65-acre site owned by Forest Hill Associates loomed at more than $48,000 if taxed at fair market value, yet fell to less than $1,000. Now, an apartment complex is under construction there.
“We’ve done what’s right within the law,” said co-owner Charles Wurtzburger.
Maybe so, with many saving big on this huge break many others are carrying the tax load.