Gov. Bill Haslam helped Bradley County Republicans celebrate being the most Republican county per capita in Tennessee Thursday evening in the DeVos Recreation Center on the campus of Lee University.
People heard the governor deliver a positive message full of accomplishments by the Republican-held legislative and executive branch of the state. He said that feat was made possible by people like the 334 there who attend dinners and work hard to elect candidates.
“We don’t just do it for fun because we are Republicans and we only care about electing Republicans. The reason we do that is, we care about good government,” he said.
In addition to the governor’s speech, party chairman Adam Lewis recognized two people for their hard work to promote Republican principles and elect GOP candidates over an extended period of time. Peggy Meyer was presented the Virginia Smith Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award for her role in founding the Bradley County Pachyderm Club in August 2007. The late Ira Cox was recognized for his work during his lifetime. His widow, Virginia, accepted the award.
Haslam said during his 20-minute speech that some people believe government creates jobs. Republicans believe jobs are created by the private sector and each time taxes are raised, that takes money out of the private sector that could be used to create jobs.
The average worker in Tennessee earned enough to pay their taxes for the year on March 31 while Georgians must work six more days. In Connecticut, “you’re going to be working until late May and if you live in California, I haven’t done the math, but I think it’s sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Tennessee has the second or third lowest taxes per capita in the nation, he said. The number of manufacturing jobs in the state have risen faster than anywhere else the Southeast.
He pointed out that Tennessee balances its budget every year and that the amount of debt owed by the state has gone down. Tennessee has the second-lowest amount of debt per capita in the United States.
“We like doing that,” he said. “In Tennessee, since this group (of Republicans) has been in office, we are one of only 14 states that hasn’t cut money to K-12 education. As a matter of fact, last year, we had the second highest increase in funding for public education.”
But, the governor said, Republicans are reforming education instead of simply throwing money at it. Last year, test scores had the highest aggregate gains in the state’s history, 55,000 more students tested proficient in math and 40,000 more in science.
“We are the only state to have a double-digit graduation increase,” Haslam said.
Continuing, Haslam said he wants Tennessee to lead the nation in education and health care reform. Also, the past two state budgets were lower than before Republicans gained control of state government.
“We are trying to make people choose to live in Tennessee,” he said. “We’re trying to create a place that whether you are a young couple or whether you are retiring or whether you own a business, that you choose Tennessee.”
Speakers making partisan remarks included Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, State Rep. Eric Watson, State Rep. Kevin Brooks, state Sen. Mike Bell, state Sen. Todd Gardenhire and Congressman Scott DeJarlais.
During the introduction of local elected officials, Cleveland City Councilman Charlie McKenzie announced he would not resign from office and would be a candidate for re-election.
McKenzie has been embroiled in a controversy after he was accused of allegedly using racial slurs.