With every new year comes a new legislative session. This year, I am excited once again to serve the people of Tennessee by presiding over the state Senate.
Looking back at what I have accomplished since I became lieutenant governor, I am amazed at how far we come — especially these last three years.
Gone are the days of playing defense against an onslaught of bad Democratic legislation. Finally, we get to turn our principles into policy. With Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and myself working together, Tennessee has solidified itself as one of the best states in the nation to live, work and retire.
In 2011, the first year of unified Republican government, we put conservative principles into action by instituting landmark education reform. Those reforms, along with a steady commitment to turn education around in Tennessee, have put Tennessee on track.
When the National Assessment of Educational Progress test results for 2013 were released this fall, Tennessee student gains were larger than any other state in the union. In fact, our state posted the largest gain ever in a single testing cycle since the NAEP scores began. Calling Tennessee’s results historic is not hyperbole or empty rhetoric, it is documented truth.
In addition to education, we made small, efficient government a priority. We continued to keep our budget balanced while shrinking government. We instituted both tort reform and civil service reform. We even passed a photo ID law to protect the votes of Tennessee citizens.
Most importantly, we cut taxes. Republicans understand that everyday Tennesseans are better at deciding how to spend their own money than any politician — conservative, liberal or otherwise. That is why, even in tough budget years, we have strived to put money back in your hands.
Eliminating the death tax, the gift tax and working to cut the Hall tax is not only fair it is good economic sense. Cutting taxes promotes economic growth and brings producers and retirees to Tennessee. That’s a good thing.
Altogether your Republican majority cut taxes by more than $43 million over three years while continuing to fund the state’s essential services and putting money away for a rainy day. While Tennessee’s budget will be tight this year, rest assured your Republican legislature will be looking for every opportunity to put money back in your pocket this legislative session.
One of the ways we have done that is by ending session on time. For years, Democrats have allowed the legislative session to extend to June or July — sometimes even longer. A legislature in session is a legislature that can tax, regulate or otherwise involve itself in your life. My goal every year is for the legislature to do its business quickly, efficiently and then go home. This year will be no different.
My focus in public life has been to make Tennessee the best state in which to own and operate a business. When we create a secure and predictable environment for business, employers will let their capital flow, creating new businesses and opportunities. That is why we tackled workers compensation reform and unemployment reform protecting small businesses and allowing them to continue creating jobs.
The best social program in the world is a good paying job. That is why we work so hard to create a positive environment for business — small and large — to create jobs.
This is what conservative governance is all about: keeping budgets balanced, taxes and debt low and focusing on the education of our young people. You can expect more of the same this session. While the budget will be tight and media will be doing their best to highlight issues that increase their ratings and web clicks, we will continue the work we have done to promote job growth and high-quality education.
We have made great progress, but there is still much left to do. I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Tennessee giving them what they have asked for in election after election: less spending, lower taxes and smaller government.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville,
serves as speaker of the Tennessee Senate.
He can be reached at lt.gov.ron.ramsey@
capitol.tn.gov, or (615) 741-4524.