McWherter hits Haslam on state subsidies for Pilot
Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 8:02 pm
NASHVILLE (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Union City native Mike McWherter says Republican rival Bill Haslam shouldn’t oppose his plan to create tax breaks for small business when Haslam’s family business has received more than $500,000 in state grants and subsidies since 2007.
“What’s good for Pilot Oil should be good for small businesses throughout Tennessee,” McWherter said in a statement Monday.
Before his election as mayor of Knoxville in 2003, Haslam was president at Pilot Corp., a family-owned chain of truck stops with annual revenues of $16 billion.
Haslam spokesman David Smith said the mayor opposes McWherter’s plan because of the state’s budget crunch.
“Mayor Haslam would love to support new credits but right now is a difficult time to be promising new credit when you’re $1 billion-plus in the hole,” Smith said.
“Mr. McWherter has made a reckless promise without offering any ideas on how to pay for it.”
A state website listing payments to vendors is the source of McWherter’s data that shows about $537,000 was directed to Pilot between July 2007 and November 2009. The site does not provide detailed descriptions beyond that the money was spent in “Grants and Subsidies” or “Land” categories.
Smith said the money was part of a state initiative to expand the availability of ethanol fuel.
“Pilot accepted the grant at the specific request of Gov. Phil Bredesen,” Smith said.
Bredesen, a Democrat, can’t run again because of term limits.
Haslam is opposed in the Republican primary by state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga.
McWherter, the lone Democrat in the race, runs a Jackson beer distributorship and is chairman of a bank. He is the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter.
“It’s bad enough that Haslam opposes tax breaks for small business owners,” said McWherter, who is attending a campaign fund raiser in Union City tonight.
“Now we find out that his big oil company has received over half a million dollars in state subsidies in a little over two years.”
Haslam, who made a campaign stop at the Obion County Courthouse Friday, has been criticized by rivals for refusing to release his annual earnings from Pilot and over the potential conflict of interest presented by his ongoing part-ownership of the company.
Haslam’s campaign has said releasing his Pilot earnings would reveal personal information about the income of family members not running for office, and proprietary information about the closely held company.
Published in The Messenger 5.25.10