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.
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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Comptroller Justin Wilson says Tennessee’s school funding formula is fraught with complexity and a lack of transparency that could lead to either inadvertent or intentional errors in distributing state money.
Wilson said in a letter to Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman this week that the department should take steps to enhance the accuracy of the funding formula that determines how $3.8 billion is directed to school districts around the state.
The comptroller’s study found that average attendance figures –which play a key role in determining how much state money flows to schools — are self-reported, and that there is little the state can do to verify those numbers.
Wilson said Education Department and state lawmakers should work on ways to improve the formula without making it more complicated.
(Note: This is an unedited version of a column written for Sunday’s News Sentinel..)
The old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” could be wisely applied to the vast majority of Tennessee’s aging state constitution. There are now 41 resolutions that propose fixes officially awaiting consideration of the 107th General Assembly when it returns in January.
One proposed amendment, promoted by anti-abortion activists, was given legislative approval earlier this year after years of effort and will go before the voters in a 2014 referendum.
Like the amendment or not, the proposal known as SJR127 does provide an example of something that was reasonably perceived as broken being fixed. The breakage occurred, from the standpoint of the activists, with a 2000 state Supreme Court decision interpreting the state constitution to provide a strong right to an abortion, though the subject is not mentioned within the venerable document.
Some of the other pending proposals have no such foundation. They are pure political pandering and/or posturing.
One example is the most-discussed of the pending proposals, namely a measure to prohibit a state income tax. In this matter, state courts have consistently ruled that a state income tax is already prohibited. So it ain’t broke.
Yes, there have been attorneys general opinions stating that, with carefully structured language, an income tax could conceivably be fashioned to win the approval of the state Supreme Court.
That, of course, would require a majority of the state Legislature eager to enact a state income tax and a court willing to ignore precedents. Both, frankly, are inconceivable given the current state of state affairs.