From an editorial in the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal:
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam delivered some good news last week with a bit of information about Nissan’s workforce. The only problem was that his statement was misleading and obviously designed to garner favor during a national economic development convention for governors in Nashville.
Early last Friday, the governor issued a statement from the convention that Nissan would be adding 810 jobs and running a third shift for the first time in the plant’s nearly 30-year history. That sounds great. The only problem is that these jobs were announced in mid-2011, and they’ve already been hired. They started running vehicles off the line Oct. 14 on the third shift, which was a historical moment of sorts at the Smyrna plant.
We appreciate Haslam’s efforts to spur manufacturing growth at Nissan. But to try to crank out some new numbers at a national governor’s conference when those employees are already working is misleading and disingenuous
Gov. Bill Haslam listed two possible beneficiaries of his legislation to authorize more payments of state cash for business expansions that create jobs during a visit to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. And he said some information involved in such dealings needs to be kept secret.
The prospects: Audi, a division of Volkswagen, and Nissan, which is eyeing expansion of its Decherd, Tenn., engine plant.
If the governor’s proposed legislative package of 55 bills passes, the German and Japanese automakers could receive both state grants and protection for business secrets revealed during negotiations.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said the privacy allowances won’t make deals less transparent and won’t apply to existing records.
“It’s to increase [companies’] confidence in sharing information with us,” he said.
But critics complain the legislation undermines public confidence in the process.
“Our politicians should not consider themselves the gatekeepers for the private economy,” said Ben Cunningham, a tea party activist and spokesman for Tennessee Tax Revolt. “It’s a slap in the face to the whole idea of open government.”
Haslam said cash grants under the state’s Fast Track business development program must go through the State Funding Board and must be budgeted in an open process.
“If there are things that are part of the companies’ proprietary business operations, that shouldn’t be open for review because we do think that opening those records would have a chilling effect on companies that want to apply with us,” Haslam said.
…The broader thrust of the plan, Haslam said, is a push to give negotiators increased flexibility in what activities they can fund.
State grants previously could only go toward infrastructure and training. If lawmakers embrace his plan, state money could also pay for some site work and relocation expenses.
But those extra qualifiers only apply under special circumstances, primarily if an employer is looking to create a large number of jobs in a small community, he said.
“This is targeted at unemployment in rural areas,” Haslam said.
The proposal will de-emphasize tax credits and boost the state’s ability to give grants on the front end, which he said have proven more popular among businesses looking to build on Tennessee’s ample acreage.
News release from Sen. Alexander’s office:
ALCOA, Tenn. – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today took delivery of the Nissan LEAF he is leasing from Alcoa’s Twin City Nissan, saying, “Plugging in my new LEAF will give me the patriotic pleasure of not sending money overseas to people who are trying to blow us up.”
Alexander said, “The Nissan LEAF is easy to drive, it’s cheaper to drive – and it will be made in Tennessee. If enough Americans bought electric cars and trucks, that would be the single best way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil – and the best way to avoid $4-a-gallon gas.” The LEAF will be produced in Smyrna.
Alexander visited the dealership this morning where he signed the lease on his new 2011 LEAF, which he is paying for personally. Alexander said he would not accept the state and federal tax credits available to those who purchase all-electric vehicles.
For the past two years, Alexander has driven a Toyota Prius that he converted into a plug-in electric vehicle, which he charged at home by plugging it in at night.
Alexander was the lead Republican cosponsor last Congress of S. 3495, the “Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010,” which aimed to speed up the introduction of electric cars and trucks throughout the country in an effort to reduce American dependence on foreign sources of oil and help clean the air. Of the bill, Alexander said, “Republicans and Democrats agree that electrifying our cars and trucks is the single best way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Our goal should be to electrify half our cars and trucks within 20 years, which could reduce our dependence on oil by about a third, from about 20 million to about 13 million barrels a day. According to a Brookings Institution study, we could do this without building one new power plant, if we plugged our cars in at night when the country has huge amounts of unused electricity.”
The legislation passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on July 22, 2010, by a bipartisan vote of 19-4. Alexander is currently working on new electric-vehicle legislation to introduce during the 112th Congress.