“I’ve heard the Republican leadership criticize John Wilder and talk about his eccentricities over the years,” McWherter said, apparently referring to the late Senate speaker’s propensity for hacking up loogies in public. McWherter said of Wilder that “on his worst day, he ran the Legislature better than this Republican leadership.”
"I don’t think the Republican leadership has been doing its job. The most important thing they do is pass a budget every year and that ought to be their top priority. It shouldn’t be coming on the bottom end of the legislature.
"They’ve had this budget from Governor Bredesen for months. I heard him present it. I didn’t hear them make comment about it at all until the first of May. I’m very frustrated with the Republican leadership in the legislature right now that they have not addressed this earlier. They waited until the very last day of the session. When you wait that long, you make very bad legislation."
As the only Democrat in the race, McWherter appeared alone at the forum at the Tennessee Bar Association meeting. Afterward, we went out into the hallway to find Ramsey, who was schmoozing with the lawyers and waiting on the GOP forum to start.
Q: McWherter says Wilder was a better speaker than you.
Ramsey: That may be the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard in my life. There was no leadership then. I love John Wilder but he always used to say ‘just float Jim float.” He just kind of floated around and let whatever happens happen. At least I had a direction I wanted to head us in and that’s where we ended up. No new taxes, cut the budget as much as possible and balance the budget.
Q: Why’d it take so long?
Ramsey: I think it’s called a fish hatchery. That was the example of overspending in a time when revenues aren’t coming in and we’re making cuts and laying off state employees and everything else. The governor the other morning did chastise us but I believe it was aimed at one end of the table. He said ‘you don’t get everything you want.’ Those were his exact words and it did kind of break the logjam.