Gov. Phil Bredesen urged Senate speaker Ron Ramsey Tuesday to offer his own solutions to the state’s budget shortfall and curb his politicking on the issue in the governor’s race.
Asked by reporters about a Ramsey campaign email with the subject line, “Ramsey Battles Bredesen Tax Hike on Behalf of TN. Small Business,” the governor said:
“For the next month or so while the legislature is here, I need a little more Ron Ramsey the speaker than Ron Ramsey the gubernatorial candidate. I certainly understand if you’re running for governor, you want to take positions. But at the same time, if you’re a sitting official of the state, I think he needs to engage with this issue. There are different views with this. He may feel these things are not appropriate, and that’s fine. But you can’t be just against things.”
Last week, Ramsey came out against Bredesen’s proposal to raise $85 million to balance the state budget by lifting the state’s sales tax cap on purchases of more than $3,200. Ramsey said Senate Republicans will present their own alternative plan making new cuts in state spending. He wouldn’t rule out an across-the-board cut in state employee pay. Bredesen a 5 percent cut would be necessary to make up the shortfall.
“The point I want to make, and I think it’s so important, is this is a really tough time,” Bredesen said. “We’re down, in terms of cuts, to very deep and difficult cuts. I’d like to avoid the last little bit of them with what I think are reasonable revenue measures. We have mostly done all this through cutting, and we’re down 20-plus percent in most departments at this point in terms of their budgets. But in the end, I just want the legislature to step up and let’s address this issue and get it done with. I’ve got a proposal. If you don’t like that, don’t tell me what you don’t like, tell me what you want to do.”
In response, Ramsey's office issued this statement:
"The governor has been successful over the past seven years precisely because he has consistently opposed tax increases, like this one proposed for Tennessee's small businesses. It's how he got elected in the first place, and it's the way he should finish out his last months in office. Tennesseans are conservative, and they expect their leaders to do things the Tennessee way by living within their means. Lt. Gov. Ramsey is determined to keep running Tennessee in a fiscally conservative manner, and he hopes the Democratic administration will join him in doing that. If not, Gov. Bredesen is always welcome to veto the budget and argue to the people of the state as to why our small businesses need to be paying more in taxes when they should be growing jobs."