State Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) was in Jackson on Wednesday, and one of his stops was at The Jackson Rotary Club.
Sexton gave a glimpse into the state of things in Tennessee ahead of the legislative session that will begin in January in Nashville.
He touted the state’s economy, ongoing work in criminal justice reform, educational improvements and ongoing work in infrastructure.
“I took my daughter skating just the other day and struck up a conversation with another dad who was there, and he’d just moved his family down to Crossville from upstate New York,” Sexton said. “His in-laws were living here and were moving into another house, and they bought their house they were vacating.”
Sexton described the other person’s story as having had two good incomes through his job and his wife’s job but never having a lot of disposable income to do things like take his daughter skating.
“They had a lot of money coming in, but between mortgage and high taxes and other things up there, it was difficult to not spend all their money as soon as it came in,” Sexton said. “And they’d visited Crossville a few times, and the people were nice, cost of living is noticeably lower, and they literally decided to pack up and leave one day and move into his in-laws’ house without a job.
“But the first place he went to looking for a job hired him on the spot, and he’s not making as much money at $18 an hour, but he has disposable income, which is possible in Tennessee depending on how you live your life.”
Sexton said that story is one anecdote that shows the strength of the state’s economy as government has worked in the past decade to reduce its debt, reduce its taxes and not take on anymore debt while also making it easier for small businesses to grow.
“Government has a few responsibilities, but the best thing government can do is make sure it’s taking care of those responsibilities and then get out of the people’s way and let everyone live their lives as much as possible,” Sexton said.
He said criminal justice reform and education improvements go hand-in-hand as a lack of a high school diploma is a significant indicator of whether or not a person will commit a crime, get caught and receive a prison sentence.
“We talk about prison programs and truth in sentencing and all these other things that are important, but that doesn’t affect the pipeline of our young people into the prison system,” Sexton said. “That’s why improving education is so important to give our young people the tools they need and give them options to go to college, enter the workforce or receive technical training before they turn to the streets and end up in our prison system.”
Sexton said infrastructure is something that needs addressing to improve Tennessee’s roads and give companies like Ford, who’s bringing BlueOval City to West Tennessee, what they need to decide to locate jobs in the state.
“One thing we’re discussing is when we need to build or expand a road, the process for that needs to take less than 12 years, because the congestion that caused you to need that road could change in that 12 years,” Sexton said. “If we can cut that time to five or six years, that’s something Department of Transportation and others are looking into, because just like a business, the state of Tennessee tries to be as efficient as possible in what it does.”