Yager says crunch is on

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By Damon Lawrence

State Sen. Ken Yager met with the Roane County Tea Party this month to discuss issues facing the 107th General Assembly.

“The No. 1 issue is the same one that we’ve dealt with for the last two years is the state budget,” said Yager, who was appointed chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. “We have experienced a very serious budget crisis in Tennessee because of the dramatic drop in revenues.”

Yager said he expects the state will balance its budget with current revenues and additional cuts.

“I will not support any tax increases at all, and I do not see the legislature doing that, either,” he said.

Many people, Yager said, have not noticed or felt past cuts because of federal stimulus dollars.

That’s about to change, he said.    

“Come July 1, you’re going to see where we’ve made these cuts because that temporary subsidy that was used to fill some of those holes will run out,” he said. “We have no intention of restoring those.”

Jobs creation is another issue Yager said lawmakers will be focusing on.

“The governor (Bill Haslam) talked a lot about job creation during his campaign,” Yager said. “We’re looking to hear what he has to say.”

Yager’s senatorial district includes Roane, Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Rhea and Scott counties.  

Roane has consistently ranked amongst the state’s lowest when it comes to unemployment rates.

That hasn’t been the case in the other counties Yager represents.

“One out of five people in Scott County are out of work,” Yager said. “That to me is a depression, not a recession.”

Yager, a Republican, also spoke about illegal immigration.

“Other issues beside finance and job creation would include illegal immigration, which is certainly a matter of great interest to most of the citizens of this state,” he said.

The 107th General Assembly convened in Nashville on Jan. 11.

Democrats took a beating at the polls in November, which allowed Republicans to return to the capitol with a stranglehold on state government.

The Senate consists of 20 Republicans and 13 Democrats. The House has 64 Republicans, 34 Democrats and one Independent.  

For the first time since 2003, Republicans also control the governor’s mansion.

“Now that we have stronger majorities and can get some things done, you’re going to see some stronger immigration bills get through the legislature,” Yager said.

The laws will be similar to ones passed in Arizona, he said.  

“Where we give local law enforcement more powers and where we very carefully look at providing services,” he said. “For example, tuition to our colleges and universities to people who are here illegally. We’re going to try and fix those problems, and I think we’ll be in a position to do it.”

Yager served as Roane County executive for more than two decades before stepping down in 2006.

He defeated Democrat Becky Ruppe for the state senate seat in 2008.