Promoting business growth goal for 2012 — Sanderson

Promoting business growth goal for 2012 — Sanderson
Special Features Editor
State Rep. Bill Sanderson provided commentary on Gov. Bill Haslam’s business-influencing plans for 2012 at the Tuesday morning “Business Matters” session.
The breakfast networking event for Obion County Chamber of Commerce members was held at the Obion County Public Library.
Noting the overwhelming majority of the people exerting influence on “The Hill” in Nashville are attorneys, Sanderson said there are far too few people looking out for business there, whether in elected or non-elected positions. Speaking as a small-business owner — the representative, who was elected in 2010, has grown his family’s furniture and appliance business in Kenton into a thriving entity — Sanderson said he welcomed the emergence of a small business task force for the state.
That group began meeting last summer and immediately availed themselves of the expertise of chambers of commerce and other experts in the business field. Out of those sessions came a list of concerns that were forwarded to the governor.
Among the items Sanderson said Haslam plans to address are:
• An increase in the budget of economic development and a focus on making it easier to recruit industry by allowing cash incentives instead of the “credit” system now in use. Sanderson said the move will bring Tennessee in line with the practices of other states that have been successful in attracting business and industry.
• A review of the rules on the books, with the goal of eliminating those that are antiquated and are negatively affecting the emergence of new business opportunities or the expansion of existing business. Sanderson said the governor has directed the commissioners in charge of the 22 state boards to tell him what will make the state more friendly to business. The representative said there is a new attitude in place and it acknowledges that government does not exist to create jobs but to help businesses create jobs.
• The demise of the small business inheritance tax, which can consume a good portion of a family’s business at the time of a death. Sanderson said the goal is to eliminate the burden entirely, but it will have to be done in increments, with the most immediate step being to raise the taxable amount in question from $1 million to $1.5 million. There is also a focus on the elimination of the Hall Tax, which is a tax on dividends. According to opponents of the tax, it drives out residents who would be contributing citizens and forces them to flee to states where their dividend income is not shared with the government. Currently, Tennessee brings in $53 million from this tax annually, so it, too, must be phased out so the action will be a positive contribution to the state and not an immediate loss of revenue that cannot be replaced in better ways.
• An amendment to the state Constitution that would proclaim Tennessee a non-income tax state as a means of attracting business and industry. This move is being paired with an immediate proposal to lower the state tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.3, with the goal being to take it down to 5 percent as soon as possible.
• A revamping of the way state government hires employees, with a loosening of current restrictions and an emphasis on flexibility in determining pay. Supervisors would ultimately gain more authority to provide incentives to keep valuable employees.
• Education and the concerns surrounding it. Noting that the current teacher evaluation plans are an outgrowth of the Race to the Top federal initiative that was implemented under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, Sanderson said Haslam wants local directors of schools and local school boards to have more decision-making authority. One of the first steps will be to change the current limits on classroom size and allow local schools to decide the number of students that works best for them. Sanderson, a Republican whose party holds the governorship and the majority in the legislature, said the new assembly is a pro-education entity. He also promised to take the concerns voiced by participants in Tuesday’s session back to Nashville.
Speaking for teachers, those attending the session noted that the evaluation provisions of the Race to the Top funding have introduced tremendous stress to educators. It was noted that many valuable veteran teachers are electing to retire early or turn to other professions and that means not only fewer outstanding educators in the classroom but fewer mentors for those who have an interest in being teachers. It will mean, too, participants said, a decrease in the number of graduates interested in being educators.
Sanderson said the guidelines for evaluations are being reviewed and many changes are being made, with more on the way as elected officials become aware of problems.
• Crime and a change in the sentencing guidelines, particularly in the areas of repeat offenders, domestic abuse criminals and gang-related charges.
• Redistricting and its effect on local communities. Sanderson noted his own district lines have been changed under the plans released recently. State legislatures must redraw district lines to conform to information provided by the federal census each 10 years. Each district must contain a target of 64,000 citizens, with a plus or minus 5 percent allowed. Sanderson, who represents District 77, said the preliminary plans he saw shifted far more of the Obion County population into District 76 than is now the case. He said the current lines were drawn after he pleaded for an adjustment to retain as much of the county as possible. An increase in District 77 population in Dyer County and a decrease in Obion County, plus changes in Weakley County in District 76, made a shifting of lines necessary. Under the new plan, Sanderson’s District 77 now includes all of Dyer and Lake counties and most of Obion County, with the remainder moving over to District 76. The plans places District 77 with the maximum number of citizens represented.
“No one likes a plan that splits a county,” Sanderson said, informing the group that the state Constitution allows up to 19 counties to be so adjusted and that 18 are currently affected. He added that the census numbers reflect the local community before the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. closure and said the next census could be even worse for Obion County if the downward trend in population is not addressed quickly. He noted successful attempts in East Tennessee to “hold on” to high school graduates through higher education incentives that keep them in the area and increase the chances they will eventually work and live there.
Sanderson pledged that in spite of the county split affecting his district, “as long as I am in Nashville, Obion County will not be slighted in any form or fashion.”  Published in The Messenger 1.18.12

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