(T-G Photo by Sadie Fowler) [Order this photo]
Bedford County Republican Party's annual Reagan Day Dinner drew a large crowd to the Blue Ribbon Circle on the Celebration grounds, including both die-hard Republicans and others, some of whom run for local office on a Democratic ticket.
The banquet also marked the first local appearance by 4th District U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, into whose district Bedford County is being moved during this election cycle.
State Sen. Jim Tracy and State Rep. Pat Marsh also spoke at the event.
Haslam said that efficiencies being implemented by Tennessee and other states can serve as an example to the federal government.
"We can show how it can happen," said Haslam, who quoted Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as saying "People will be surprised how much government they'll never miss."
Haslam boasted that the state is reducing the Hall Income Tax on investments, although when he took comments from the audience one audience member called for its complete elimination. Haslam also said the state was working to cut the so-called "death tax" on estates.
"It costs you more to die here than it does in most states," said Haslam. "....We're going to end that in Tennessee."
He also said the state would work to reduce the sales tax on groceries.
Haslam said Tennessee, while ranked near the bottom of the states in student reading and math scores, is making headway in improving edcuation.
DesJarlais later said that when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee earlier this week, he made repeated complimentary references to Haslam and Tennessee during his opening statement.
Haslam also said the state is working on safety and criminal justice issues such as methamphetamines, prescription drug abuse and domestic violence.
Haslam praised both Marsh and Tracy for their support in the state legislature.
"I'm a trucker," said Marsh, "and I spend a lot of money at truck stops."
Marsh said he does not consider himself a career politician and said that the Founding Fathers wanted responsive part-time legislators.
"We all must be involved," said Marsh. "When you get the right people involved, you get real results.
Marsh noted that, because the 4th district included Lincoln County even before redistricting, he campaigned alongside DesJarlais at some events two years ago. He called DesJarlais "a principled conservative who fights for better government and lower spending."
Tracy praised the job Haslam is doing as governor and said the goal is to make Tennessee a welcoming state for job-creating businesses.
"We want to be the most business-friendly state in the country," said Tracy, who referred to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study which ranked Tennessee as having the most business-friendly taxation and regulation climate in the U.S.
Tracy praised Haslam for submitting his proposed budget earlier in the year than in any of the eight years Tracy has served in the General Assembly.
"We're running the state more efficiently now than it has ever been run," said Tracy.
Tracy noted that Tennessee is a low-debt state and said job creation requires a partnership between local governments, the Department of Education and Community Development and the education community.
Bedford County GOP Chairman Bill Neese was master of ceremonies for the event. The Rev. Doug Dezotell gave the invocation and the benediction, while Kacey Smith sang the National Anthem and led the crowd in "God Bless America." Past Chair Frank Reagor led the Pledge of Allegiance.