Gov. Bill Haslam called for bipartisan problem-solving Tuesday and dismissed rebukes from conservatives and liberals alike over his refusal to take positions on controversies in the rancorous legislative session.
“You hear criticism from all sides on this deal,” Haslam told reporters after speaking to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “At the end, I’m going to try to solve problems and fix things. I think that’s why Tennesseans elected me to be governor. I’m not going to be anything different than the same person I campaigned to be.”
Haslam caught it from both sides Saturday during dueling state Capitol protests by Tea Party activists and teachers’ union supporters. They denounced the governor for refusing to give his opinion of legislation to repeal the collective bargaining rights of teachers.
Democrats have accused the GOP of targeting their traditional political allies with a slew of bills this session. Ratcheting up the rhetoric, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Democrats are “bought and paid for by the unions.”
Asked Tuesday about Ramsey’s remark, Haslam said: “Democrats have said certain things about Republicans and about me that I don’t particularly like. So that’s why I want to get past all of that. What can we really do to solve problems?”
Haslam said he’s concerned about the legislature’s acrimonious climate. He said he is trying to calm the waters.
“We’re actually having those conversations now with Republicans and Democrats,” the governor said. “We really don’t want to get to where Washington is — where good people don’t want to go there anymore to serve. If you ask me what my concern is off the last two or three weeks, it would be that. There has been more of a partisan divide, which I don’t think is healthy for solving problems.”