The state capital has forgotten the Nursery Capital, fixing their interest on boom towns like Nashville, Murfreesboro and Franklin at the cost of smaller towns like McMinnville.
The defunding of the Driver Testing Center in McMinnville is only the latest example of folks on Capitol Hill thumbing their noses at the non-metropolitan areas, using us a poker chip in their latest round of politics as usual in Nashville. Tennessee has a near $1 billion surplus and lawmakers are trying to tell us they just can’t foot the bill to pay $48,000 in rent for a testing center that is used by thousands, not only from Warren County but surrounding counties.
The state could easily afford it. I’d say that is little more than tip money for most high-ranking state officials. If the truth be known, and it is around here, the issue that landed the testing center on the scrap heap this year is that our elected representatives betting on the wrong horse when it came to Gov. Haslam’s gas tax. Our elected officials preferred the Hawk plan that would have taken funds from the present sales tax instead of inflicting a rise in the gas tax. However, in the end the governor’s plan won out and all of those who did not go along with his “legacy building plan” were made to pay. In the case of Warren County, we didn’t get our Driver Testing Center reinstated.
If we look further back, you will recall it was a past Haslam appointee, Bill Gibbons, a former district attorney from Memphis, who opted to put Warren County’s testing center on the chopping block. He came down here and spouted all these savings the state would enjoy by cutting funding for our small-town Driver Testing Center, savings that didn’t figure in the costs it would inflict on the thousands of people who would have to drive to Cookeville or Tullahoma and wait in line for hours. Obviously, Warren County was the feather-in-the-cap for some bean counter who made points with his boss by cutting a few bucks out of the budget.
Had the state bothered to do its math, or cared to do its math more likely, it would have seen that it takes an hour to drive to, and an hour to drive from, the other testing centers from here. Then, once you’re there, the centers are overwhelmed because of the shutdowns of other centers like ours. You will have to wait hours.
What’s that mean? That means if you have a child getting a driver license during the school year the student will have to miss a day of school and you will have to miss a day of work. That means if you’re a commercial license holder you will have to miss a day of work to get a renewal. That means if you want to vote and you don’t have some other kind of government ID, you’re going to have to spend most of a day driving to and from another center to get a photo ID.
Maybe, next year, if we’re lucky, Nashville will throw us a few crumbs from its banquet feast, especially seeing that it’s an election year.
Standard reporter Duane Sherrill can be reached at 473-2191.