Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says: Cut budget, not more tax

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says: Cut budget, not more tax

By Ryan Harris,

DECATUR — Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told a group of Meigs County business leaders  Saturday that the state’s financial picture is bleak but there is no fear of tax  hikes.

“I can promise you this, we are not going to balance the budget on the backs  of business,” Ramsey said during the keynote address at the Meigs County/Decatur  Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting and banquet. “We are going to make it work  with the revenues we have,” he said.

Those revenues aren’t robust this year, Ramsey warned. He said Gov. Phil  Bredesen estimates $500 to $600 million must be cut to balance the state’s  budget.

“It won’t be easy,” Ramsey said. “There is going to be gnashing of the teeth.  Obviously there is going to be some cutting.”

Ramsey, a Republican state senator from Blountville, said Tennessee is in far better shape than other states, such as Virginia, where a $2.5 billion deficit awaits legislators. Ramsey said the state “had money coming out of our ears” for five consecutive years as sale tax revenues soared. Now with the weakening national economy, the state is seeing about a 3 percent decline in sales tax revenue. The budget was set on a projection of 2 percent growth, Ramsey said.

Franchise and excise taxes, meanwhile, have shrank 15 percent, the lieutenant governor said. There is about $750 million in the state’s rainy day reserve, however.

“You know what? It’s raining,” Ramsey said.

In other events from the Chamber banquet:

*Special awards were given to four people for their contributions to the Chamber of Commerce and the community. Winners were Laura Smith, Elsie Stacy, Tony Finnell and Lisa Oliver.

*Chamber Director Ronda Tucker announced a new economic development panel has formed and will soon present information to the Meigs County Commission. She said the panel aims to recruit new business to Meigs County.

*Another highlight for the Chamber this year, Tucker said, is success in the Imagination Library program. About 80 percent of Meigs County’s youth are enrolled in the program to receive free books, officials said.

*Meigs County ranks eighth in the state for per capita involvement in the Imagination Library program.

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