Analysis: What is the Haslam Legacy?

As Governor Bill Haslam delivered his final State of the State address Monday night he appropriately looked back over the accomplishments that he and the Legislature have produced since he first took office seven years ago.

The Governor is clearly pretty proud of his record, and there has in fact been some notable progress in a few areas during his tenure.  The questions that remain are: 1. how much of the credit actually belongs to him; and, 2. whether his signature accomplishments in education will actually produce measurable results that justify the investment of taxpayer dollars.

Let’s look at three key issues:

(1) Tax Cuts

Several tax cuts were implemented over the past seven years – eliminating the inheritance tax, eliminating the Hall income tax, a narrowly targeted reduction in fuel taxes for FedEx (who’s Chairman sits on the Board of the Governor’s family business), elimination of what was essentially an income tax on professional athletes in certain sports (though the Professional Privilege Tax, a flat rate income tax on a couple of dozen professions remains in place) and cutting taxes that primarily benefit a few dozen of the biggest corporate cronies of the Governor (though that one included a tax increase for not-so-wealthy citizens in the form of a higher gas tax).

Interestingly, the Governor fought the tax cuts (except for the one that mostly helped his buddies) and forced his tax increase through a reluctant Legislature – yet he showered himself with praise for the cuts he opposed.

During his time in office the benefits of a growing state economy helped increase Tennessee revenue collections by over a billion a year – and fueled an equally dramatic increase in spending. In fact, faced with about a billion dollar surplus and a billion dollar increase in recurring revenue just last year, the Governor and Legislators embarked on a spending spree that would make a drunken sailor blush.

Time will tell whether the “investment” of taxpayer dollars will bring any significant return – except to those who got those special deals and contracts from the Administration. Most Tennesseans didn’t pay the Hall Income Tax nor Excise Tax, so the cuts don’t help them much. ALL of us pay the gas tax increase.

(2) Failed Efforts to Expand Medicaid

Twice the Governor tried to expand Obamacare in Tennessee through his medicaid expansion scheme. Twice the Legislature rejected his proposal out of hand. Democrats are pushing the Governor to make a third attempt, despite the fact that states that did expand Obamacare are experiencing financial disaster as the price for their decision. They do provide a valuable example of the bullet Tennessee dodged – no thanks to Governor Haslam.

Opioids went from being a problem to a crisis under his watch, though Tennessee is not alone in that regard. Democrats and Republicans will pander and grapple during this Session to see who can gain a political advantage from the issue – voters are not likely to be impressed by anybody playing politics with their pain.

(3) Education

One of the Governor’s signature accomplishments is TN Promise, but wasn’t that Randy Boyd’s idea? And, Tennessee Reconnect, which enables working adults to get similar financial assistance for college and technical schools as those heading to higher education direct from high school, was sponsored by Senator Mark Green – though the Governor now takes the credit. Collective bargaining by the teachers’ union was eliminated…but that was the brainchild of Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey who also spearheaded the effort to get it done.


The Governor supported them, but could never get supermajorities of Republicans in the House and Senate to follow his lead.

Common Core?

Haslam was a strong proponent, but fortunately the conservatives in the legislature forced him to back off and essentially pull the plug over his objections. The annual testing debacles started under his first Commissioner of Education, Kevin “I voted for Obama” Huffman, and have not improved much since then. Despite billions in new education spending, the test scores of Tennessee students have only marginally improved.

Thousands of Tennessee students are attending community colleges for free (well, free to them, Tennessee taxpayers are paying) though most are taking remedial high school classes in their first year of “college” and it remains to be seen how many move on to four year colleges and universities much less graduate from those four year colleges and universities. In fact, one of the best accomplishments of the Haslam Administration in the education arena has been making sure the results of their “free community college for everybody” scheme are carefully hidden from view – even from legislators who seek to get that important information. Tennessee colleges and universities have become increasingly liberal and disconnected from the culture and values of the taxpayers who fund them.

Sex week? Pride centers? University of Tennessee leadership that has no connection to the state?

Check. Check. Check. The Chairman of that UT Board of Trustees? Governor Bill Haslam.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for the Haslam legacy seems to be that the was great at outsourcing taxpayer money to his cronies, like Jones LaSalle, and even outsourcing his Education Department to SCORE.

He’s also been fond of “insourcing” the ideas of others and treating them as his own.

He failed to fight back against efforts to pour thousands of third-world refugees into our state; has been AWOL in the battle to prevent our state capitol from becoming a Sanctuary City; opposed protecting our daughters and granddaughters from perverts and predators in their locker rooms and restrooms; supported using taxpayer dollars to fund college tuition for illegal aliens; sought to defeat conservative legislators from his own party; and declared himself unwilling to vote for a Republican nominee for President who carried 92 of Tennessee’s 95 counties on the way to an historic national victory.

It is a legacy that only the liberal media could love… and do.



Related posts

One Thought to “Analysis: What is the Haslam Legacy?”

  1. Kevin

    You nailed it! Even the photo is brilliant! It shows a true leader, “behind the scenes”….Mark Green. Even Haslam seems to be pointing it out.