State Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said the Republican Party began the 108th General Assembly Tuesday with a supermajority in both houses. The senator was the guest speaker at a breakfast hosted by state Sen. Mike Bell at the Mountain View Inn.
At the start of the 107th General Assembly two years ago, it was the first time since the Civil War that Tennessee had a Republican governor as well as a Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives.
“We have witnessed a very significant transformation in the state of Tennessee over the past couple of years and we’re very excited about that and that opportunity, but let me tell you what also comes with that: responsibility,” he said.
For more than a century, Republicans often said “no,” criticized and attempted to dismantle what the other side tried to do, he noted.
“When you become the majority party, you actually have to govern and do what you say you are going to do,” he said. “What we said we were going to do as conservative Republicans was make Tennessee a better state to live, work, raise a family and operate a business.
“As Republicans, we are the party of lower taxes, lower government. Look at what is not going on in Washington in the absolute vacuum of leadership.”
Jackson said Washington has not produced a budget in four years. There is a record deficit, more regulation and more red tape burdening the economy.
“Over the last two years, we have reduced your taxes. We have passed a balanced budget every year. We have reduced state spending in real dollar terms,” he said.
The so-called “death tax” will be phased out over the next two years, and the GOP has decreased the sales tax on food and is working on eliminating the Hall Income Tax, Johnson said.
“We are one of the lowest-taxed states in the nation and have the lowest per capita debt in the United States, but Tennessee has never been a very good state to retire in or to die in,” he said.
The GOP has reformed the state’s civil service program. Performance is now the key to retention, pay raises, hiring and promotions.
“We had a system in Tennessee where the only thing that mattered in state government in regard to getting a promotion or a pay raise was how long your butt had been in the seat,” he said. “Tenure was the only thing that mattered.”
State government is focused on making Tennessee the best place to own and operate a business and putting great teachers in every classroom.
“If we get those things right, pretty much everything else will fall into place,” he said.
Johnson said other issues coming up in the General Assembly include President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan.
“Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation that has ever been passed in the history of the United States,” Johnson said.
The national health care reform is riddled with deficiencies that will become a burden on states. It is a lose-lose proposition, he said.
“It is going to be a real challenge for us as a state to figure out how to pay for the impact of Obamacare when it goes into full implementation,” he said.
Worker’s Compensation reform will also be addressed this year.