‘Thank Goodness For Republicans’? – Not So Fast!

Dear Sir:

“No Democrat has represented us in Congress since 1879,” boasted the chairman of the Greene County Republican Party in his May 24 published letter. That may be true, but how exactly has it benefitted the average Tennessean?

Among the U.S. states, per capita income of Tennesseans ranks within the bottom 25%.

“We have increased spending on education every year since Republicans have been in charge.”

Tennessee ranks 43rd in per pupil spending, among the bottom 15% of states.

“This year alone, Tennessee expanded postpartum care to new mothers for a full year ...” Tennessee’s maternal death rate of 26.7 per 100,000 births, ninth highest among 46 states, resulted in “more than 220 Tennessee mothers dying before their babies turned 1 between 2017-2019,” according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

The letter credited Republicans with increasing “... teachers’ salaries by $163 million.”

Tennessee just approved a $42.6 billion dollar budget ($21.1 billion state funds, $15.5 billion federal funds, $6 billion other) allocating 0.38% to salary increases for teachers and allocating over three times as much, $450 million and 1.05% of the state’s budget, to business development. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 29).

The 142 continuous years of Republican representation has, according to the letter, “led to Tennessee ranking first for the best business climate in America.” True, our Republican legislators have a 142-year record of prioritizing and funding business interests ahead of the financial, health and educational interests of Tennesseans.

Within the recent Tennessee House legislative session, the House voted themselves a raise and cut the unemployment benefits provided by the State from 24 to 12 weeks. Tennessee pays up to $275 weekly for unemployed individuals, ranking it among the lowest in the country and significantly below the national average of $387. The bill caps the maximum payout period at as low as 12 weeks — the lowest in the nation. These changes will take effect in December 2023.

Our Republican Governor decided Tennessee will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs – rejecting $300 per week of federal money after July for unemployed Tennesseans.

In addition to the $300 supplement, Tennessee is also ending participation in federal programs that allow those who don’t usually qualify for benefits, such as the self-employed, to receive them, as well as an initiative that extended the payments once regular state unemployment benefits expired.

It is worth noting that over a dozen Republican legislators, including one of our own, had no problem accepting federal dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program for their own businesses.

There is nothing wrong with legislators taking advantage of a federal program designed to help small businesses during the pandemic. However they should neither prevent their voters from also receiving federal dollars nor reduce their state benefits.

Thanks, but no thanks.

It is time for a change in our representation and it is up to us to vote into office legislators who will represent the best interests of ALL Tennesseans.

Art Gillen