McWherter campaigns for Bredesen in Elizabethton

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Tennessee's next governor will have to find common ground with legislators regardless of party affiliation to move the state forward, according to former Gov. Ned McWherter.
   The two-term Democratic governor stopped in Elizabethton Wednesday afternoon during an upstate campaign swing to stump for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Bredesen.
   "I think Bredesen knows how to do that," said McWherter. "In talking about business and applying business principles to the management of government, I think he knows how to do that."
   Bredesen is running against Republican nominee Van Hilleary. The former Nashville mayor is expected to join McWherter at a campaign fundraiser in Jonesborough tonight.
   Both candidates have stated they do not support the creation of a tax on personal income.
   The General Assembly tussled over "tax reform" for the past four years -- particularly the issue of a tax on personal income. The debate estranged the relationships between some lawmakers.
   McWherter said in his judgment the state had adequate dollars to fund state government over the next four years without raising any new taxes.
   Known for his ability to build consensus among Democrats and Republicans, he added that the next governor would need to view putting aside partisan politics as a necessity.
   "Whether you've been a member of the Legislature or not, you've got to learn to work with the General Assembly," said McWherter, who served seven terms as Speaker of the state House of Representatives before being elected governor. "You've got to learn to work with the leadership; you've got to learn to work with both parties."
   McWherter felt the next governor's best move would be to surround himself with excellent administration leaders and staff members to direct the operation of government.
   "The key in my opinion to a successful administration is to get some good staff people and commissioners to help him," said McWherter. "A governor can provide leadership , but he can't provide management for the whole state of Tennessee and all its departments."
   McWherter occupied the governor's mansion from 1987 to 1995 when the Basic Education Plan passed General Assembly and the TennCare program was enacted to take the place of Medicaid.
   The BEP reallocated funds based on wealthy counties that really helped some of the rural counties.
   Some people wanted to complain about TennCare, but 25 to 30 percent of Carter County citizens who relied on the program for their health care coverage, said McWherter, did not complain. He also said citizens often thanked him for the creation of TennCare.
   "That is worth any criticism you get from it," he said.
   McWherter said he had never taken a staunch position on the lottery. He said he previously planned to vote against any referendum to lift the state's ban on a lottery -- until this year.
   "I am going to go to the polls and I am going to vote for the lottery," said McWherter.
   McWherter credited his new perspective on the lottery due to watching neighbors near his West Tennessee farm travel only 15 miles to the Kentucky border to play that state's lottery.
   "People out there go buy lottery tickets every week," said McWherter. "There is no use sending (money) to Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia; we might as well keep it in Tennessee."
   Now retired, McWherter said his son had taken over one of his businesses, and he sold his trucking company and was primarily retired save for serving on the board of directors for Coca-Cola Consolidated and Piedmont Natural Gas in Charlotte, N.C.
   However, he said he still works his farm in middle Tennessee.
   "I'm what you call a windshield farmer," quipped McWherter. "I drive out on the farm and look through the windshield and supervise."