Thursday, December 4, 2014

CPI Buzz 12-4-14

Faced with road problems, Haslam weighs whether now is time for new taxes

Democrats Are Petrified of Defending Government—but They Need to Start

Tennesseans Are Wary Of The Words ‘Common Core’ And Some Abortion Restrictions, New Poll Finds

State Democrats Down But Not Out

The corps of Democrats in the 33-member Tennessee General Assembly may have been winnowed down to five, as of the November 4th election, but of those five, three are brand-new members with a reputation for focused activism and a love for political hurly-burly.
The three are Memphians Lee Harris and Sara Kyle, and Nashvillian Jeff Yarbro. It is no accident that two of them — Harris and Yarbro — gained leadership function in a party caucus held last Tuesday in Nashville, while the third, Kyle, took the lead in nominating them both. Harris was elected Senate minority leader (to succeed Kyle's husband and District 30 predecessor Jim Kyle, now a Shelby County chancellor), and Yarbro was named Democratic caucus chair.
State Senator Reginald Tate, who had counted on winning one of the two leadership positions, nominated himself for leader but deferred to Harris when it became obvious that he had the votes. Yarbro was unopposed for caucus chair. The only Democratic senator who aspired to no leadership position was Nashville's Thelma Harper.
House Democrats had their own reorganization last week in Nashville, reelecting Representative Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley as minority leader and electing as caucus chair Representative Mike Stewart of Nashville, who replaces the now retired RepresentativeMike Turner in the party's number two leadership position. Fitzhugh and Stewart had no opposition.
The situation in the House, where Democrats hold 26 of 99 seats, is somewhat less dire than for Democrats in the Senate, at least percentage-wise, though in both chambers a Republican super-majority prevails, enabling the GOP to pass whatever legislation its members agree on. The number of cases in which Democrats can cast significant votes in either body will be rare indeed. LINK

Faced with road problems, Haslam weighs whether now is time for new taxes

Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that without new transportation money Tennessee must soon decide whether to stop building new roads and bridges and simply stick with maintaining those it already has.
But the governor told reporters that he hasn't decided whether 2015 is the year to ask state lawmakers to increase Tennessee's gas tax -- it would be the first one in 25 years -- or else pursue new funding mechanisms.
Or he might simply wait.
"There's no way the state can continue on the path we're on now. The math just doesn't work," Haslam said. "I'm not saying we're going to ask the Legislature to do it, or they're going to ask us. We're evaluating the needs, and is this the right time to do that or not ... we obviously don't want to do that until we have to."
At the same time, the governor said he is "not going to go put a Band-Aid on it and say, 'Oh good, maybe we'll get another three, four years down the road.' We actually want to look at something that is a strategic long-term view." LINK

Democrats Are Petrified of Defending Government—but They Need to Start

It’s even more striking to hear someone like Schumer, known for relationships with Wall Street and traditionally one of the big banks’ best friends among Washington Democrats, argue that defending government means not just defending programs but using government’s regulatory and even prosecutorial power to check private-sector rapacity: “We must first prove that the era of big corporate influence over government is over. Big business, big banks, big oil—they may be allowed a seat at the table, but right now Americans feel that big special interests are buying the whole room and renting it out for profit. When government panders to these forces, and lobbyists and lawyers carve out ridiculous loopholes that amount to taxpayer-funded kickbacks to corporations, Americans feel that government is not working for them. When government fails to prosecute those who work in financial institutions (some of which were propped up or bailed out by the government) for what seems, on its face, blatant fraud, Americans feel that government is not working for them.”
That’s pretty amazing stuff coming from him. But it, too, like the Obamacare business, isn’t really his main point. The big idea in the speech is that Democrats have to come up with ways to show the middle class how the party will put the government to work in their behalf. I agree, but I would add that there’s another, prior job, which is simply to explain to middle-class people the dozens of ways in which the federal government already helps them and their communities but about which they have no idea. LINK

A Gas Tax Hike In Tennessee? Eventually, Says The Governor

Governor Bill Haslam says there’s no way around hiking the state’s gas tax some time in the future. The tax, which hasn’t increased since 1989, is not keeping up with the rising cost of building and maintaining Tennessee’s roads and bridges.
Improved fuel efficiency standards and the rise of hybrid and electric cars are a boon to the environment, but the governor says they hurt gas taxes. What’s more, Haslam says federal transportation funding is always uncertain, noting that Congress’ temporary fixes on the federal highway fund make it tricky to plan long-term projects.
Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer echoed the worry over the unpredictability of federal support, calling the situation “disconcerting” during TDOT’s budget meeting on Wednesday.
Coupled with less-than-stellar state gas tax revenue, Schroer says TDOT is focusing almost exclusively on maintenance, instead of expanding the state’s road infrastructure.LINK

Tennesseans Are Wary Of The Words ‘Common Core’ And Some Abortion Restrictions, New Poll Finds

The opinion of Tennesseans on national education standards depends partly on the wording. Results from a Vanderbilt University poll released Wednesday show that respondents had a much more negative reaction to the phrase “Common Core.”
Forty-six percent of registered voters said they oppose Common Core, the national standards for reading and math. But when asked the exact same question with the same explanation, but without saying the words “Common Core,” opposition dropped to 34 percent.
Vanderbilt professor Josh Clinton says it’s because the phrase has taken on political meaning, similar to the word “Obamacare.”
“How politicians and people talk about these issues is going to be really consequential for interpreting what the public thinks about the issue,” he says.LINK

Haslam To Attend College Summit At White House

Governor Bill Haslam is participating in a college summit at the White House.
The Republican governor was to join President Barack Obama and the first lady at the White House College Opportunity Summit on Thursday.
The event is bringing together colleges and universities, business leaders, nonprofits and others who support more college opportunities for students across the country. LINK

Crockett Policy Institute

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