Jackson and Roane County issues discussed at legislative luncheon
Jackson and his neighboring county of Roane have differences in population and tax base. But there are also a lot of similarities.
Topics at a recent legislative luncheon focused on the issues facing the two counties. Hosted by the Roane Chamber of Commerce, three of the four lawmakers present represent both Jackson and Roane counties.
The roads were the most discussed topic.
“The roads in this state are in terrible, terrible, terrible condition,” said Senator Eric Tarr, who represents Jackson, Roane, Mason and Putnam counties. “I traveled here on Route 33 from Ripley and saw the worst landslide I think I have ever seen.”
Delegate Riley Keaton, who represents Roane and Jackson counties, and Tarr said $ 150 million has been earmarked for road repairs across the state from the surplus budget.
âIt only scratches the surface but shows a commitment to solving the problem,â Keaton said. âThe 11th arrondissement received $ 3.8 million.
Tarr said he approached the governor’s office to ask why more money had not been allocated. The response surprised the 40 or so participants at the event hosted by Chestnut Ridge Winery in Spencer.
âI was told we don’t have the capacity to spend more than that,â he said. âWe don’t have the necessary equipment or manpower. The state suffers from the same problems as the private sector in finding workers and obtaining equipment. “
During the question-and-answer period, the difference in approach to the repeal of personal income tax became evident.
Senator Tarr spoke of his strong support for the repeal which did not receive enough legislative support to pass in the last legislative session. Tarr said the nine states that do not have personal income tax have shown population growth, higher per capita income and a stronger workforce.
âThe House of Delegates supports a more gradual and measured approach,â said Delegate Keaton. “My main concern is raising taxes in other areas to cover the loss of personal income tax.”
A question about schoolchildren immunization was raised by Senator Amy Grady who also represents Jackson, Mason, Putnam and Roane counties.
A mother said her family doctor told her not to vaccinate her children because of a strong reaction from her youngest child. She said that due to vaccination requirements her children will not be able to attend the Christian school that she is currently helping to establish.
Grady, an elementary school teacher and mother of three school-aged children, said she was in favor of reviewing vaccination regulations.
âI want to keep this dialogue open,â she said. “There should be more consideration for more exemptions.”
One of the last topics discussed was the retention and remuneration of law enforcement. Concerns have been expressed about increasing the salaries of municipal police and sheriff’s deputies to allow counties to be competitive.
Tarr said a measure on the ballot in 2022 would allow for a change in constitutional requirements for property taxes.
âIf this passes, counties will have more latitude and means to manage property taxes, which could help solve this problem,â he said.
Overall, the four lawmakers, which also included Senator Donna Bole, said the last legislative session was one of the best.
Tarr, along with the three other Republican lawmakers on the panel, said having a “super-majority” in the Legislature made it easier to pass some bills. The Republican Party held a majority in the State House of Delegates and Senate, with the governor in the same party.
âWe were able to pass around 300 bills,â he said. âThirty of them were major pieces of legislation. “