Gov. Bill Haslam encouraged the legislature’s large class of freshman lawmakers to resist falling back on what may be the politically right answer to public policy problems.
In a freshman orientation for the state House of Representatives’ 22 first-time state lawmakers Tuesday, Haslam said, “There’s a way to be about good government versus a way to always be about politics.
“There are times when you have to come up with a political answer. That’s just the reality,” the governor said. “But I really hope that we’re always driven by getting to the right answer.”
The governor admitted the “right” answer will likely look different to each member of the diverse class of legislators elected earlier this month to begin serving in earnest once the General Assembly convenes Jan. 8, 2013.
The election gave Republicans sweeping two-thirds political majorities in both chambers, allowing them to decide any legislation, approve rules or cut off debate without Democratic votes.
Haslam said lawmakers should familiarize themselves with the state budget and how spending plans work and drive policy decisions, warning that plans to cut taxes but increase spending on a project won’t balance out.
Meanwhile, wading through policy issues is tougher than it seems, offered Haslam, who oftentimes finds himself on the fence before announcing what direction he wants to take.
“Once you get here, things tend to be a lot less clear than maybe they were before,” he said. “I’m a person of conviction. I really am. I’m not saying that we should just be somewhere in the mushy middle and everybody’s got a great point. But we do have to realize in every discussion that the other fella might be right.”