Dixie casts Gov. Lee, Republicans as tools for the wealthy, big corporations in speech ahead of State of the State
Dixie says Democrats are focused on middle class values — ‘like rewarding work, not wealth, and taking care of each other’
NASHVILLE — Democrats delivered a sharp rebuke of the policies shared by Gov. Bill Lee and the supermajority ahead of the governor’s annual State of the State Address scheduled for Monday evening.
In a speech Friday, Rep. Vincent Dixie, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, described Democrats as being focused on rebuilding Tennessee’s middle class in contrast to Gov. Lee and Republicans as a party that will “move mountains for the wealthy, while refusing to address problems that affect everyday families and people who punch a clock.”
“Tennessee, we don’t have to continue down this path. There’s a better way and better vision for our state,” Dixie said. “We believe in a future where Middle Class values — like rewarding work, not wealth, and taking care of each other — get top priority.”
Dixie also said Gov. Lee and the majority party focused too much and too often on “politics of division and exclusion,” wasting valuable time “radical dog-whistle politics and culture war bickering.”
You can read Chairman Dixie’s full remarks, as prepared, below:
Hello Tennessee, my name is Vincent Dixie.
I’m speaking to you today from Nashville, Tennessee.
Where I’m standing is only a couple miles from the public schools that I attended. And the university that I graduated from — twice. Go Big Blue.
This is the community where I started my own business.
And this is where my wife Ericka and I are raising our two beautiful daughters, Noelle and HannahMaria.
I’m a proud father, husband and Tennessean who cares deeply about the future of our state.
Black, white, or brown, I want all our children to grow up with better opportunities than we had.
I want them to have safe, vibrant neighborhoods where people take care of each other, where we work together to make our future better.
That’s why I ran for state House in 2018.
For years, I watched our state headed down a different path.
Where people with power and privilege kept doing great.
But where families who work hard and play by the rules, never seem to catch a break.
I’ve seen a state government run by politicians who will move mountains for the wealthy, while refusing to address problems that affect everyday families and people who punch a clock.
Tennesseans want to have a little money in their pocket, food on the table, great schools, and to have a life where they can retire with dignity.
That’s the American dream!
Our state government should want that for every person, regardless of where you live or who your parents are.
Article 1 of the state Constitution says that our government is instituted for the “peace, safety, and happiness” of all people.
Instead, the levers of power are guarded by politicians who would rather have us believe we are in competition with one another.
But here’s the truth: we’re all in this together.
On Monday, Governor Bill Lee will offer his State of the State Address.
It will be his final address of this term and make no mistake about it, he’ll be trying to convince you to give him four more years in office.
When he’s standing at the speaker’s podium, he’s going to paint a rosy picture, but he won’t tell you the whole story.
He’ll talk about a few accomplishments his administration has made, but he won’t mention the many ways he falls short.
He’ll talk about some new investments, but he won’t tell you it’s President Biden and Democrats in Congress who made them possible.
And, he’ll talk about unity — without a word about the ways his administration has tried to divide us.
Before I talk about our vision for a stronger Tennessee, where every person has the freedom to thrive, I want to address three things — infrastructure, the economy, and public education:
Let’s start with infrastructure. A report just last week showed that Tennessee needs $62 billion worth of infrastructure improvements.
That’s things like roads and bridges, schools and universities, and waterlines. Two thirds of these projects are unfunded.
On Monday, you can expect that the governor is going to announce billions of dollars worth of new construction projects that will reshape local economies, provide years of good job opportunities, and make historic investments in Tennessee’s future.
Here’s what he won’t say: Thank you, President Joe Biden.
And thank you, Democrats in Congress.
That’s the truth. Thanks to Biden’s American Rescue Plan and his Infrastructure and Jobs Act, Tennessee is set to receive billions of dollars that will help us make a down payment on real needs in communities across the state.
In addition to the very important work of replacing our crumbling roads and bridges, Biden’s federal legislation is going to allow Tennessee to extend high-speed Internet to every community in the state from Mountain City to Memphis.
Because of President Biden, Tennessee is going to make historic improvements to our aging waterlines and wastewater systems, which will create thousands of good paying jobs and keep our drinking water safe.
We’ll also upgrade stormwater systems, which helps us reduce flooding and keep homes and businesses safe.
Remember the money is there thanks to Joe Biden — and that’s who deserves credit.
We know we’re going to hear about Tennessee’s economic recovery, which is coming along thanks to billions of dollars worth of FEDERAL support to families, schools, governments and business owners.
But we also know Tennessee’s state recovery is much too uneven and leaving far too many behind.
In the governor’s world, the economy is measured by corporate profits, Wall Street stocks and meetings with CEOs.
In the real world, where most Tennesseans live, the stock market is not the economy.
Now think about public schools. For a couple months, Governor Lee has been talking about changing the formula we use to fund public education in Tennessee.
For years, public education advocates, teachers, parents and, even us Democrats, have proposed reforms to better fund our schools.
Tennessee invests the least amount of money to educate each student than every other state in the Southeast — except one.
Tennessee ranks 45th in the country in the amount of money we spend on students.
Forty-fifth! This is shameful.
If Gov. Lee and the supermajority want to catch up to Alabama, we would have to spend an additional $1.2 billion dollars each year.
If we want to break out of the bottom 10 and make a real investment in our economic future, we have to match what Kentucky does and put $2.5 billion more on the table.
When our state pays to relocate a Fortune 500 company, it’s embarrassing to see them recruiting people from out of state to fill those jobs.
But that’s the direct result of policy decisions made by the majority party.
They have failed to address our public school funding crisis for a decade.
They have forced teachers to do more and more with less and less.
And they’ve made it all worse with schemes that defund our public schools brick by brick.
We cannot expect our students to grow up and win first-class jobs on a low-class education budget.
Every Tennessee child — no matter their zip code — deserves the highest quality education that can possibly be provided.
Instead of once again asking our teachers to do more, it’s time the governor do his job and give educators a raise that actually hits their bank account.
Instead of fighting over which books can be in the library, let’s fight to provide every classroom with high-quality books and materials that students need to learn.
Instead of prioritizing politics over common sense, let’s prioritize our children’s health and safety so they can stay IN the classroom learning.
It’s an absolute shame that so much of what has unfolded over the last two years has been so politicized by the governor and the majority party.
More than 22,000 Tennesseans have died from Covid. That’s the equivalent of every person in Overton County or Scott County dying in less than two years.
This has been a public health emergency.
And Tennesseans deserve leaders who act like it.
Tennesseans deserve leaders who make the tough calls to keep people safe — even if it costs them political capital.
The days where responsible Republicans would stand up to the extremism in their own party feel like ancient history.
Instead, they seem to enjoy the politics of division and exclusion.
Led by the governor, we waste days and weeks and months on radical, dog-whistle politics and culture war bickering.
They invent fake causes like “illegal protesting at the Capitol.” But we know there is no such thing.
And “critical race theory,” which is only American history they’re too fragile to hear.
They fear-monger against LGBTQ youth trying to get people riled up with no concern about the consequences of their actions.
They moralize about abortion but ignore the root causes of unintended pregnancies.
They preach about election security to glorify a self-obsessed one-term president… while at the same time, saying our elections were safe and secure.
We have to inform, not inflame.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the supermajority’s disregard for solving real problems and serving our families.
Before this pandemic hit, a lot of families were struggling.
Whether it’s improving wages for working folks, making child care accessible or tackling the cost of health insurance, Gov. Lee and his party have shown no interest in doing the hard work that moves us all forward.
Over and over again, they demonized people who were laid off through no fault of their own while their budgets increased tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations that profited off the pandemic.
This summer, Gov. Lee and his billionaire allies will be leading the charge to amend Tennessee’s Constitution with a policy that will boost corporate profits even higher.
All at the expense of wages and benefits — and respect — for working people.
And, just this week, the supermajority followed the orders of D.C. Republicans and drew themselves new political maps — that take power away from African American voters — in an attempt enshrine their unchecked power for another decade.
This is who is they are!
A political party with no compassion and no guiding principles — except seeking more power.
A party that enjoys singling out the weak and vulnerable to make themselves feel strong.
A party always ready to serve themselves through good times and bad — and leave the rest of us on our own.
Tennessee, we don’t have to continue down this path.
There’s a better way and better vision for our state.
We believe in a future where Middle Class values — like rewarding work, not wealth, and taking care of each other — get top priority.
That means we’re growing good jobs, with good benefits for a hard days work — and not participating in a race to the bottom for workers.
Consider this: With Ford’s multi-billion dollar truck plant in West Tennessee, we are still reaping the benefits of Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s leadership from a decade ago.
Middle Class values means we build child care infrastructure and pre-school options in every community that wants it. Because people can’t get back to work and advance in their career when they don’t have accessible and affordable child care.
That means moving to an economy where paid family and medical leave is available to all workers so everyone has the opportunity to bond with a newborn or take care of their parents in a crisis.
Democrats believe health care is a human right. If Republicans would honor life enough to care for people dying without health insurance, we could tap into billions more federal dollars to extend health coverage to nearly every working family in the state.
We can fight back against closing hospitals, rising premiums, and outrageous deductibles…
We can make sure that families aren’t devastated financially just because someone gets sick.
We can do away with our medieval marijuana laws and stop locking people up on ridiculous possession charges. We could start treating cancer patients with a cash crop that boosts our economy by billions.
We can invest in schools, technical careers and higher education and put students on a trajectory to compete with the workforce in any state — and any country in the world.
We are fighting for a stronger Middle Class because we believe everyone should be able to see a doctor when you need one, keep food on your table, have money to pay your bills and provide a quality education for your children.
These are the kind of Democratic initiatives that raise the quality of life in Tennessee.
Rural, urban, Black, white, brown, old, young, new comer or native… let’s unite around our shared future, and reject their radical division politics.
Let’s come together and work toward common goals, instead of ignoring the problems our families face.
It’s time for us to turn the page in Tennessee.
We need to leave partisan bickering and poison politics behind us. We need to come together and work to make Tennessee a better place.
The Democratic Caucus is prepared to reach across the aisle for the betterment of our state and EVERYONE in it.
Thank you and God bless Tennessee.