House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) told the Beacon Center of Tennessee last week that her “core conservative values” and experience in the state legislature make her a good candidate for governor.
A Nashville-based nonprofit that promotes the free market, the Beacon Center is conducting Facebook Live interviews with gubernatorial candidates on issues facing the state.
“I think I have core conservative values that I’ve taken to state government and put them into place, and because of that I think we do in fact have a good, well-run state government,” Harwell said.
Harwell said that in her leadership role she has “led in some of our state’s boldest and most successful initiatives – everything from eliminating the inheritance tax and gift tax to making us the third lowest taxed state in the nation and the lowest debt state in the nation – but also reforming our unemployment and workers compensation laws, making this a very legally stable environment for businesses to flourish.”
Harwell also touted sponsoring legislation allowing for charter schools and for making Tennessee friendly for homeschoolers. In addition, she mentioned a program launched last year that allows parents of children with special needs to access a variety of educational resources, including private ones, with taxpayer dollars as an alternative to traditional public school enrollment.
Harwell said she is against corporate welfare, including using tax dollars toward sports stadiums. Small businesses create most of the jobs in Tennessee, yet they don’t receive such incentives. “Government really is not a good decider of who should be winners and losers,” Harwell said. A better alternative would be to reduce the franchise and excise tax to attract businesses to the state, she said.
As for the opioid crisis, Harwell said, “We cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem.” She said it costs the state around $120,000 per bed per year to put someone in prison and that there’s a revolving door with hardened criminals ending up right back in jail. Hawell said drug-related courts that sentence offenders to rehabilitation would be a better and more affordable option, costing around $40,000 per bed.
Harwell said she does not see that as being soft on crime.
“There are certain people that need to be locked up and locked up for a long time,” she said. “But most people just need help and a second chance.”
Rehabilitation offers “hope for these people,” she said. “It will turn lives around.”
Harwell also said she is working to reduce the number of licensing requirements for business entrepreneurs. The current situation is “not to protect the public. It’s really a turf battle to protect that particular occupation,” she said.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Harwell said of Tennessee government. “I’d like to be a part of that improvement going forward. I enjoy public policy and I think I have a good working knowledge of state government to hit the ground running.”
Here is the video of the Beacon Center interview: