Prioritize climate action
I am happy to see the governor prioritizing “the greatest challenges of our day.”
The greatest, even existential challenge of our time is that of climate change. This is destabilizing our natural systems. It threatens our forest lands and agriculture. It brings high costs of floods, major storms and tornadoes, droughts and dangerous heat waves and other health threats.
We had three emergency-level droughts since the turn of the century, with more than 90 percent of the state affected, according to the Tennessean, even 99 percent in 2016. We had the Great Smokies and Gatlinburg fire that year; there were several costly floods around Nashville after “extreme” rains, such as are becoming common events under climate change.
The state had a Task Force on Energy Policy under Governor Bredesen. With the great urgency for climate action now, Governor Lee should revive it. He should join the national group of “Climate Mayors.” Through diverse actions and investments, they are advancing business and job opportunities — think solar power, electric vehicles — in their communities as well as minimizing the harm from climate change.
The governor is right in supposing that, when traveling I-81, we don’t want to be stopped for paying tolls. When this was at issue about a decade ago, 73 percent of comments submitted at public hearings opposed it. He should direct the TDOT Commissioner to look beyond car-centered transportation options only. This interstate now has almost four times its design capacity in freight-carrying trucks — squeezing, stressing and endangering automobile travelers who would then pay additionally, through polls, for its use. It should have an intermodal rail lane added, eventually to become part of the passenger rail service revival, which would help the climate, local economies and good land use, and which many Tennesseans desire.
Stop the giveaways
I was hoping that our new governor, Bill Lee, would focus on the needs of regular hard working people. He, like our previous governor, has been very successful in business, so some of the very first words out of his mouth are to give tax breaks to business.
This practice is all too common, both state and federal, as our president rewarded himself and his fellow billionaires with huge tax breaks immediately after taking office. We desperately need funding for our schools, infrastructure, healthcare and our state and local police departments. Tax breaks, year after year for the wealthy and businesses are the very reason that we cannot fund state, federal and local needs. Tax break dollars since the early 80s far exceed the huge and rapidly growing federal deficit. Without these continuing huge tax breaks, we would not be in debt with most of the money given to people who really don’t need it, leaving the burden to the huddled masses — us.
Here’s a list
First, just this week I was diagnosed with a rare aggressive cancer. Therefore, I would really like to see the legalization of medical marijuana. Many of us seniors face difficult times, and would like alternatives to opioids. Also some local farmers could benefit.
Second, I would like to see the reduction or elimination of the sales tax on fresh produce, which would be beneficial to both consumers and farmers.
Thirdly, any tax incentives for more efficient vehicles (like the new VW electric cars that will be manufactured here in Tennessee) would be forward thinking.
Lastly, I would like to see passenger rail service available in Northeast Tennessee to both points north and south to Atlanta.
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