Bredesen makes first speech following cuts to Democrats at Jackson Day fund raiser

Bredesen makes first speech following cuts to Democrats at Jackson Day fund raiser

By: AP

NASHVILLE (AP) — Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen addressed the party faithful Saturday for the first time since he was forced to make deep spending cuts that included trimming the state’s work force by 5 percent. Bredesen’s keynote address was warmly received at the state Democratic Party’s annual Jackson Day fund raiser at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville. The state employee buyouts were one of the more contentious issues toward the end of the recently completed legislative session. A group of House Democrats were the most vocal about their concerns about the buyout proposal. “If we can pull this off and make it work successfully it will be the best of all worlds,” Bredesen told reporters before his speech Saturday, adding that he has not heard any negative feedback on the plan. “There will be 2,000 happy people who saw an opportunity to move on and get some money for doing it. And no one who wants their job or needs their job will be let go.” Bredesen said the state’s strong reserves allow Tennessee to offer buyouts rather than just cut jobs, as some other states are having to do. Administration officials announced Friday that buyouts will be offered to nearly 12,000 state employees in hopes that about 2,000 volunteer for the packages. The payroll reduction is projected to save the state about $64 million a year. If not enough people take the voluntary buyouts, Bredesen has said mandatory layoffs will follow. Several officials from the Tennessee State Employees Association attended Saturday’s event. While the organization has praised the voluntary aspects of the buyout, the leadership is still waiting to see to whom the package is offered. “We still have our reservations about the process,” TSEA lobbyist Theo Morrison said. Bredesen, who is a superdelegate, also told those in attendance that he won’t endorse a presidential candidate until after the last primary on Tuesday. He said he will announce his decision shortly afterward. Bredesen said he has been called repeatedly by both campaigns. “Being a superdelegate is kind of like being a beautiful young woman,” he said. “You get lots of opportunities to field phone calls.” Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and an Obama supporter, was at the event. “I’m going to use every trick in my book to see if I can’t cajole Gov. Bredesen — and others here in Tennessee who haven’t crossed the line yet — to commit for the next president of the United States, Barack Obama,” she said. Published in The Messenger 6.2.08

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