Gov. Bill Haslam tried Thursday to dampen expectations for his jobs-creation package of legislation, saying he will focus instead on ridding the state of burdensome business regulations.
“I want to be really clear,” the governor said in a speech to the Tennessee Press Association. “A lot of people ask me every day, ‘When are you going to present your jobs package to the legislature?’ I don’t think that we are going to solve Tennessee’s employment issues with legislation. I just don’t.”
Republicans have been touting Haslam’s jobs agenda as their No. 1 priority since they won unassailable control of the legislature in the last elections.
“Gov.-elect Haslam’s agenda, his job creation program, will be at the top,” Rep. Beth Harwell said when asked to name her first concerns after Republicans nominated her as House speaker in December.
But Thursday, Haslam named only two bills that he’s likely to support in any so-called jobs package — tort reform and changes in regulations to encourage insurance businesses to locate in this state. He also pointed out that he already has frozen new state regulations for 45 days while his administration reviews whether they are impeding economic growth.
“We will have some legislation … but it will not be a huge, thick jobs packet because I don’t think that’s how jobs are created,” he said. “I think they can be created, though, by looking at the different rules and regulations that are put in place by government that sometimes make it difficult to do business and often times can encourage businesses to go somewhere else besides Tennessee.”
The governor also expressed optimism about the prospects for landing new businesses.
“I’ve been encouraged on the economic development front in terms of some of the opportunities that are coming to us even recently in the first 26 days we’ve been in office. Tennessee is moving in the right direction in terms of our reputation for job creation around the country. I’ve been very, very encouraged that what we’re trying to do in Tennessee we actually can do and are going to do in terms of becoming the best location for high-quality jobs in the Southeast.”