Editor's Note: The following press release was posted without editing.
TN State Representative Bruce Griffey organized and just held the first meeting in Nashville of the “Rural Caucus” at the state legislature, inviting both Republican and Democrat members of the Tennessee House of Representatives interested in issues related to rural districts. Griffey explained the concept behind forming the Rural Caucus, stating that “There are bi-partisan issues and challenges unique to the rural districts of the state, and the general idea of the Rural Caucus is to get legislators on both sides of the aisle who represent rural districts together, discuss rural legislative issues, and hopefully advance legislation beneficial to rural counties by bringing a bigger voice to the House chamber for rural districts.”
“One issue that is particularly important to me in my rural district is economic development, and, in order to address this issue, I have been researching how much money the TN Economic and Development Commission (ECD) has historically been spending as well as where and on what. For the past four years, it appears ECD has spent approximately $21.5 Billion dollars to attract/promote new business development. Of that $21.5 Billion, approximately $14 Billion was spent in 17 urban counties and $7.5 Billion went to 67 rural counties,” Griffey explained. “This needs to change asap, and I am already in the process of drafting legislation to sponsor and introduce next session to essentially flip the allocation of ECD dollars so more businesses are encouraged and more motivated to move to rural areas in Tennessee. If the representatives of the rural districts stick together, we can make it happen,” Griffey stated.
Roughly three dozen legislators attended the meeting to join the Rural Caucus. “We plan to meet monthly, and get a consensus on 5 to 10 agenda items to take into the upcoming legislative session to specifically help rural districts. Other agenda items discussed at the initial Rural Caucus meeting included how best to get surplus tax dollars back into the hands of taxpayers. We had a $636.1 Million surplus for the just completed 2018-2019 fiscal year. This means that we overtaxed Tennesseans to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. We need to correct this, and one proposal I made at the meeting was to eliminate tax on food in Tennessee,” said Griffey.
Other agenda items discussed included rural broadband, the prioritization and acceleration of road and infrastructure projects in rural counties and rural hospitals and health care options.