Wednesday, May 23, 2007

All hail, King Philip!

The Governor's staff say that an "innocent mistake" was made and that they were not using "bait-and switch" tactics, as Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris had claimed. Governor Phil Bredesen wants to pass an increase in the State's tobacco tax-an increase that the State does not need (since we have a massive surplus) in order, the Governor says, to fund improvements in education.

Senate Republicans could have played hardball and blocked the Governor's proposal entirely. They chose not to do so in what I think was a wise decision at the time-not because I necessarily agree with the Governor or his funding formula, but because I had hopes-as I am sure most Republicans did- that the Governor would negotiate in good faith. In the end the Governor might get his tobacco tax hike, but in return Republicans would get the rules of educational accountability they were asking for, and might get Tennesseans a richly-deserved reduction in the grocery tax.

Now the Governor is playing in a manner aptly described by Senator Tim Burchett as "bush league." Haranguing legislators with "phone bank" phone calls. The calls are orchestrated by the Tennessee Education Association, which is hardly an independent group-it's long-standing ties, along with those of other NEA affiliates, to the Democratic Party are well-known. If the Democratic Party or a Democratic Governor says "jump," the TEA will say "how high," and vice-versa. This is hardly grass-roots activism, this is Bredesen sicking his minions on the General Assembly in an attempt to force compliance with his way. Last I heard, Phil Bredesen has not been crowned King of Tennessee.

The calls are not the biggest problem, however. The Governor's staff e-mailed a memorandum to legislators outlining his proposed changes for the Basic Education Plan. The wording of the memo is far less stringent on standards than what the Governor had previously promised. He is misleading Republicans and trying to intimidate them.

Apparently, the Governor believes that his election victory last November entitles him to do whatever he bloody well pleases with little or no oversight. Don Sundquist believed the same thing, Governor, and we see where it has landed him in the annals of Tennessee history.

And so begins another week in the Banana Republic of Tennessee.



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