POLITICS: Shameless Meddling 

FLYER Editorial :

Shameless Medsdling

Both 4th District congressman Van Hilleary, the presumed Republican front-runner for governor , and ex-Nashville mayor Phil Bredesen, regarded as a prohibitive favorite among the Democrats, have done their best -which is to say, their worst- to prevent the Tennessee legislature from dealing with a state fiscal crisis that is on the edge of disaster.

In the last week or so there have been fresh signs that the legislature might actually hazard a long overdue solution to a revenue shortfall which is heading toward the two-billion-dollar mark. For three years legislators have dithered and ducked their duty as emergency funds were raided and basic state services - notably including education -were cut to the bone. The state House of Representatives made it clear that it would not approve any further increase in the state's already oppressively high sales tax. The Senate contains members who have held the line against an income tax. And special-interest lobbyists have prevented substantial revenue solutions of any other kind.

Finally, it began to appear that both legislative chambers of the General Assembly might agree on a mild, "flat-tax" version of an income tax. Such was the word tentatively passed last week on Capitol Hill in Nashville and reinforced later in the week on the grounds of the Covington Country Club, where throngs of influential politicians gather annually for House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh's "Coon Supper."

But that was before Messrs. Hilleary and Bredesen butted in. In their gubernatorial campaigns so far, both - no doubt influenced by intense and highly organized propaganda campaigns overseen by radio talk-show hosts and others -had taken stands against a state income tax. Both were undoubtedly mindful that a virtual riot whetted up by income-tax opponents brought state government to a panicky standstill last July and forced the emergency use of tobacco-settlement funds merely to provide for minimum levels of state services. Even the use of those one-time funds, however, did not prevent draconian cuts forced upon Governor Don Sundquist in the areas of state parks, education spending, and health-care.

As Sundquist, an advocate of tax reform, said at Covington the other day, he felt vindicated in that even longstanding opponents of revenue adjustment had admitted the urgency of the moment and had begun to come around. Hence, the pending flat-tax vote.

Enter Hilleary and Bredesen, each of whom released statements this week that he would seek to "repeal" a state flat tax if one were to be passed by the General Assembly this year. Nothing could have been better calculated to undercut the last-ditch efforts of the governor and legislative leaders to avert the gathering financial catastrophe.

Hilleary, at least, can point to a substantial number of his partymates who are adamantly opposed to a state income tax. Bredesen can boast of no such groundswell among state Democrats. Both men come off as unacceptably opportunistic. Whatever their personal convictions, each could have - and should have -declined to interfere with the legislative process under way.

We do not endorse in election races, but we would be remiss not to point out that Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Henry, while opposing an income tax, too, has been open-minded enough not to rule it out. Democrat Randy Nichols has been sufficienctly brave to campaign in favor of an income tax, while another Democrat, Charles Smith, has accused Bredesen and Hilleary of "pandering" and has promised to make no comments of his own on the legislature's ongoing deliberations.

Illustrations, if you will, of the difference between statesmanship and demagoguery. (Care to respond? Write mailonthefly@aol.com.)

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



Hungry Memphis

The Nine Now Open

Fly On The Wall Blog

What’s Kids in the Hall Co-Founder Kevin McDonald Doing in Memphis?

Hungry Memphis

Gordon Ramsay's in Memphis to Save a Restaurant!

News Blog

TVA CEO Set to Retire in April

News Blog

Leaders Work to Revamp Public Art Guidelines

Tiger Blue

Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

Tiger Blue

#22 LSU 85, Tigers 76

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

This Week At The Cinema: Indie Memphis Winners and BTS

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies Lose First Home Game to Utah Jazz 96 - 88


More by Jackson Baker

  • Post-Mortem, Pre-Birth

    On the surface, the GOP still rules in Tennessee, but the election showed evidence of Democratic revival.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • Last Stop, Memphis!

    On the long campaign’s final night, most of the major candidates were working Shelby County.
    • Nov 8, 2018
  • Election 2018: Winners, Losers, and Close Calls

    Locally, the blue wave still had power, though most Democratic challengers to incumbent Republicans fell short; statewide, the red wall remained stout in wins by Lee and Blackburn; the Council's referenda all go down to defeat. (ORIGINAL ARTICLE RESTORED.)
    • Nov 7, 2018
  • More »
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation