In anticipation of the upcoming election season, the Home Pages have compiled a list of questions for candidates running for office.
When you ask Williamson Countians what’s the biggest problem they want addressed, it is traffic. What sort of traffic solutions do you advocate and how do you pay for them?
Williamson County is growing because people want to live and work here, and that will continually burden our infrastructure. We restored TDOT funding this year that had previously been shifted to the general fund during the Recession. That’s an additional $142 million this year for roadway projects and another $120 million next year.
Here in Williamson County, we have the widening of Concord Road and Hillsboro Road underway. The Franklin Road project in Brentwood is about to start, we just finished the widening and interchange work on Interstate 65 – we certainly capture a significant portion of the state’s allocation of roadway improvement funding for Williamson County.
I also sponsored the Public-Private Partnership bill that passed this year, which allows the private sector to get involved in funding transit solutions in a way that wasn’t possible before.
Do you think there is school funding equity, and if not, is there a way to correct the funding formula?
The BEP formula is patently unfair, because it penalizes growth and the success of Williamson County students. There’s only one system in the state that gets less per student than Williamson County. I have worked to find additional streams of revenue to help cover our shortfall. This year I was able to secure an additional $2.9 million for our public school system, and I will continue to fight for funding moving forward.
The legislative session is 90 days. Do you think the priorities based on the legislation and time spent on legislation is appropriate? Rank them on the most pressing issues facing Tennessee – health care, education, transportation, state economy, social issues and religion and culture.
The role of the legislature is not to get together and pass a bunch of new laws. A balanced budget is our first priority constitutionally, and in terms of priorities I think the state economy is second, where we have no new debt and have AAA bond rating from all three credit agencies. Issues like school funding and transportation closely follow. Those are the issues I’m focused on. We’ve had plenty of time to accomplish what we needed to address each session.
In legislation such as the bathroom bill, is that a case of our state making a statement or addressing a problem? Based on the consequences to North Carolina, do you endorse such legislation?
The federal government sees a problem where one doesn’t exist, and the result is an unacceptable overreach into our state and our public school systems. I voted for the resolution to file a lawsuit challenging the rule because we have to push back against these unilateral decrees, and I’m proud of the Attorney General for taking action. We can’t and won’t govern on the basis of threats of economic consequence.
Williamson County will continue to grow. From the state level, how will you oversee it is done responsibly, and do you think the urban growth boundary system still works?
Just as the federal government shouldn’t overstep their bounds, neither should the state. Municipal planning is a local issue, and I don’t believe the state should tell municipalities how to plan their growth.
The legislature overturned affordable housing set asides at the municipal level. Do you think affordable housing is an issue, and if so, how should it be addressed?
I believe affordable housing is an issue that needs to be addressed, but I don’t believe in social engineering. This is a free market issue, and developers shouldn’t be forced to spend their time building a product that won’t deliver a profit simply because the government thinks it’s the right thing to do.
Do you believe the state should enact its own legislation to discourage the presence of illegal immigrants, and what kind of measures should those be?
If we are going to have illegal immigrants in Tennessee and the federal government is putting them here, then the federal government should pay 100 percent of the cost. The U.S. Department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement should be enforcing the borders and discouraging illegal immigration, but obviously that is not a priority from the President and Congress. We will continue to enforce our laws and combat it every way possible in Tennessee.
When would Tennessee ever need a full-time legislature?
Never. Our charge is to manage the state, not to spend the entire year finding new laws to pass. That’s what the federal government does, and we’ve seen how that works. As citizens and business owners, our legislators have to go back and live under the laws they passed, and that’s the way it should be.
Do you prefer a complete elimination or a gradual phase out of the Hall Tax? Is there a way to replace the lost revenue to cities?
As Reagan economist Dr. Art Laffer says, the cities will replace that revenue through the economic impact of people coming to Tennessee or remaining in Tennessee now that the tax is removed. We just had to plan for it so it didn’t affect the budgets of the state or our municipalities in an irresponsible way.
For a more comprehensive discussion on this issue, go to sargentfortennessee.com.
Do you think the legislature will be ready at the beginning of the session to deal with the Medicaid expansion question in light of the Insure Tennessee summer study and the comprehensive task force? What is your position on the expansion?
I oppose any expansion of Medicaid. It’s not the state’s role, and the taxpayers of Tennessee can’t afford the $300-$400 million a year it would cost to fund and operate the expansion. Anyone who is saying the federal government is paying for it is mistaken.
Samantha Hearn reports for Home Page Media Group. She can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @samanthahearn.