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Spinning like a shiny top on Christmas morning, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey claimed victory today for Republicans in the state budget negotiations. Hmmmm, let's see, Republicans retreated on nearly every major issue--the Haywood County industrial site, the Solar Institute, bridges, higher education construction, pre-kindergarten funding and closing the tax loophole for real-estate tycoons, just to name six big ones. But with a straight face, Ramsey told reporters this afternoon: "I think we did a pretty good job actually to make sure we got a budget that's good for the people of Tennessee."
He went on to tout all the many wondrous blessings brought to you by the new Republican majority: SJR127 and gun laws, he said, plus, charter schools, and a "huge change in the way we select judges in the state of Tennessee" by ending trial lawyer domination of the selection commission, and beating back a couple of new little taxes--one on cable TV boxes and the other on business phones.
What does Ramsey think about the Democrats' claim that Senate Republicans offered their budget-cutting amendment as a political gambit to help his gubernatorial campaign?
"That's ridiculous. We as Republicans believe that the more we can keep from passing debt on to the next generation, the better off we are. The more we can keep from raising taxes and keeping money in the taxpayers' pockets, the better off we are. We should let the people spend the money and not the government spend the money. The Democrats think the more you expand government, the better off you will be and that's not the case."
Ramsey defended the Senate GOP's much-maligned plan, saying it took political courage.
"If you want to propose cuts, then you need to have the guts to say where these cuts are coming from. It wasn't just like we began by saying, 'governor you've got to make $55 million in cuts, but by gosh, you've got to pick them out.' That would have been the chicken way out in my opinion."
House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh offered a different viewpoint today. He said Republicans proposed cuts to please the teabagger crowd, then went home and caught flak from their constituents and realized they'd stepped in it. Democrats ridiculed Republican Sens. Jamie Woodson, Tim Burchett, Doug Overbey and Dolores Gresham, among others, for failing to help save projects in their districts that the GOP had been trying to kill.
"I mean it's pretty obvious they didn't want to vote on it," Naifeh said. "They made a No. 1 political blunder. They were trying to show that they could be more conservative than our governor who has been very responsible in what he's done and the cuts he's made. They were trying to out right-wing each other, to see who could get to that right-wing base the fastest and the most."