According to a Governing Magazine article, “Tennessee offers a compelling example of what conservative government can deliver. With its AAA bond rating and well-funded public pension plans, low unemployment rate, rising educational achievement and an innovative program that offers two years of free community college, Republicans see Tennessee as a national model of good governance.”
So what goes into the secret sauce? For our state, the primary ingredients are a focus on bringing jobs here, increasing access to high-quality education and ensuring that state government is run in an efficient and effective manner. Focusing intently on those three areas has led to major successes for Tennessee.
We have had unprecedented economic growth, with the unemployment rate hitting all-time lows over and over again this year, more than 385,000 new jobs were created in Tennessee since 2011 – with more on the way – and median household incomes are growing at the second fastest rate in the Southeast.
Tennessee has become a model in education, leading the nation as the first state to offer tuition-free community college, while at the K-12 level, our students were the fastest-improving in the country.
In managing our state, we decreased the size of state government by 10 percent, Tennessee has the lowest debt per capita of any state and, with the help of the General Assembly, we have created $500 million in tax cuts, with more scheduled to come.
As I head into my final year as governor, I am proud of all that we have accomplished over the past seven years, and I am determined to create even more success stories next year.
Remembering the Sevier County Wildfires
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the Sevier County wildfires. Looking back, we remember those who lost their lives in the wildfires and honor the communities that came together to rebuild and recover. The resilience of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the surrounding communities continues to impress us all.
Tennessee is home to about 474,000 veterans, including more than 2,400 who work in state government. The week of Veterans Day, I joined the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services in honoring Tennesseans who have served in the armed forces. This year, we recognized six veterans working for the state of Tennessee, all of whom have honorably served their state and their country. Thank you to anyone who has served our country in the armed forces. We are proud to recognize you on Veterans Day and throughout the year.
Teacher Cabinet Luncheon
Crissy and I held a luncheon for the Teacher Cabinet on Nov. 8, and each teacher brought along a special guest, a student from his or her district who plans to become a teacher. As with every Teacher Cabinet meeting, I spent the lunch primarily listening and learning from the teachers and the students. My greatest takeaway from the students was that we have another strong generation of teachers coming our way in Tennessee.
Christmas at the Capitol
The annual Christmas at the Capitol celebration took place last week, as adults and children alike took part in holiday festivities, including the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree. This year’s tree, which stands outside of the Capitol over the Motlow Tunnel, was donated by the Mazzo family of Burns. They purchased it as a live Christmas tree in 1982 and planted it in their yard on New Year’s Day 1983. At 35 feet tall and 4,500 pounds, the Mazzos decided to donate the Norway spruce to the state this year to serve as the Capitol Christmas tree.
As we head into the holiday season, Crissy and I send you warm blessings from our family to yours and wish you a merry Christmas. If you have any feedback or just want to be in touch, email me at email@example.com.
Bill Haslam is Republican governor of Tennessee.