“Our state is in great shape, and (Gov.) Bill Lee is pushing forward to make it greater,” state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, told members of the East Tennessee Republican Club at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City on Monday.
Crowe, who was first elected to the state Senate as a Democrat in 1990, said it was an “interesting session with a new governor.” The lawmaker noted he was closing in on his 30th year in the General Assembly.
“It seems like yesterday when you live your life in four-year terms,” Crowe said.
The senator said Lee has adhered to key “Republican principles,” such as lowering taxes and a less intrusive government. He said Tennessee can boast of having the “lowest taxes in the nation,” while maintaining a $1 billion “rainy day” fund.
“We are still shrinking state government,” Crowe said. “The last two budgets we passed had no new debt.”
Crowe told Republicans there are still things he and his colleagues in the state Legislature need to work on, including Tennessee being ranked No. 43 in nation for health care. He said the state needs to put more resources in teaching healthy habits to younger Tennesseans.
He said state legislators continue to lower taxes, including passing a measure this year to phase out many state professional privilege taxes.
“Even though we are cutting taxes, our revenues are exceeding expectations,” Crowe said.
The senator said Lee, who took office in January, has “identified several important initiatives” during his first months as governor. They include expanding vocational education, helping the state’s farmers and creating an office of “faith-based” initiatives.
“Our dairy farmers are in deep trouble,” he said. “This is a tough time for them.”
Crowe also pointed to the General Assembly’s recent passage of the so-called Katie Beckett waiver, a $27 million measure that creates a supplemental insurance program to assist families of children with medically complex needs, regardless of their income. He said Tennessee was “the only state in the nation” with no such a law on the books.