Tennessee could reject a portion of the $787 billion economic stimulus package out of concerns that it would force the state to raise taxes on businesses in the future.
At the National Governors Association meetings in Washington, D.C., Gov. Phil Bredesen said this week that he might turn down relief for unemployed workers worth an estimated $143 million because of conditions placed on the money by Congress.
The stimulus package would also raise unemployment benefits by $25 a week for all workers, but in addition, lawmakers want states to expand the pool of people who can apply for benefits. That would put more pressure on an unemployment trust fund that is already trying to stave off insolvency.
“We are evaluating this piece of money, whether it makes sense for us to take it,” Bredesen said in an interview Monday with the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “We’re in the position of going back to our legislature this year for changes in our tax structure just to keep our fund whole, and taking it to a new level may be too much of a lift for the legislature this spring.”
To be frank, Bredesen has been a reasonably good governor. He’s a businessman, and has actually reflected that in the way he’s run the state. He put the state income tax fracas in the past and has worked to attract new industries (such as Chattanooga’s new Volkswagen plant.) And the TennCare fiasco–which was supposed to be a test model for nationalised health care–has been an expensive headache, one which he’s had to tackle. He’s also got a Republican legislature to face, a restriction Barack Obama doesn’t have.
Obama’s goal, his own words notwithstandng, is to expand the role–and with it the expense–of government. Bredesen understands that his state, in a country which has lost so much industry, can’t stay competitive with such an expansion of the government. Barack Obama does not. Perhaps that’s why Obama didn’t ask Bredesen to be his Commerce Secretary.
Let’s hope Phil Bredesen sticks to his guns on this one.