Wamp recently made a stop in Dyersburg to campaign to a crowd at Lupo's about why he should be Tennessee's next governor. The gubernatorial candidate has represented Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, in East Tennessee, since 1995. He sits on the United States House Committee on Appropriations and is the lead Republican on the Subcommittee on Military Construc-tion and Veterans Affairs. He announced his intention of running for the office of governor of Tennessee in January of this year and will be running against other Republican hopefuls in the Tennessee Republican primary in 2010. Gov. Phil Bredesen will not be able to run for governor due to term limits.
"Right now, West Tennessee needs more attention from the governor than any part of our state and I say that in every part of the state," said Wamp. "We need a production agenda for agriculture, economic development and manufacturing. We need to use the mega site. We need to educate the rurals. We need to connect everybody with broadband and set the agenda in motion for rural West Tennessee for new growth and economic development. We've got abundant land, low taxes, right to work. We've got a lot of advantages but we need an agenda to create a rural West Tennessee economy."
Wamp expressed that many vital aspects of the state would improve if he were to become governor.
"I have this agenda for the future of our state to make it an even better state. I think that's where a campaign becomes really important, because the campaign should be about the future of our state to make it an even better place," said Wamp. "From the overall health of our citizens, which I guarantee you will improve if I'm governor; to the education system, which I guarantee you will improve if I'm governor; to economic development and job creation under my production agenda for the future of our state. I know we're going to grow the economy if I'm governor. I've got a strong 15-year record in Congress, so people know and can look at my record and say this is where he's coming from. This is what kind of votes he has taken and this is the position that he's taken. But, I think every now and then you ought to take a step of faith and say 'how can I best help the state?' and I believe I can lead this state to even better things."
Wamp added that 15 years ago he established the Tennessee Valley Technology Corridor in East Tennessee to grow the manufacturing sector. The Corridor is promoted as one of the top 10 technology hot spots in America and originally targeted energy and transportation companies to come to the region, landing two major companies. He added that the creation of jobs is one thing that sets him apart from the other Republican candidates.
"That is one piece of this campaign that my record and my history so dwarfs the other candidates it's not even close," said Wamp. "I have actually been hands-on involved in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs in the region that I have served, and I want to do that in Middle and West Tennessee."
Wamp added that Tennessee has the ability to grow the defense sector in other parts of our state, particularly in the 65-24 corridor from Huntsville, Ala. to Fort Campbell, Ky.
"I've launched the vision and set the pace and the future of our state," said Wamp. "And then frankly the experience I have in the private sector and the public sector totally transcends the other candidates. They're all good people and they've all got certain skill sets. But I have the combined knowledge of the world, the national picture and our state and the private sector, which will be much better suited to lead our state forward than others who might be at local government. Maybe they've been in state government, but I actually understand what's been going on in our country and how Tennessee needs to lead our country to a more responsible governance."
One debated topic in the state is education reform. Wamp said the first step to correcting the problem of education is for children to have basic reading proficiency.
"Our children are not reading well enough by the time they get to the third grade," said Wamp. "In third grade you start reading for content instead of learning to read. Not enough of our students are proficient readers. I don't think we should test in kindergarten, because tests create a bureaucracy and they cost money. We ought to benchmark, meaning check every child to see if they are reading proficiently and if they're not, stop." He also said the same would go for basic math skills.
He then advocated the advancement of work-force development, by tying secondary schools with community colleges through dual enrollment and promoting the effort.
"Some of them need a vocational education. Some of them need a two-year degree where some will go on to a four-year degree. Only 20 percent of our students will get a four-year degree. What about the rest of them? Education needs to be about creating jobs in the economy," said Wamp.
On the issue of crime, Wamp said it was wrong to release repeat offenders before their sentences were up, and added that although most voters believe Tennessee has a three-strikes policy on armed robbery, it is simply not true.
"We've got hundreds of people walking the streets of big cities that have committed multiple crimes, and that's not fair to the citizens," said Wamp. "So we've got to have a more secure state by strengthening our state laws and keeping people in jail all the way through their term. We bond out repeat offenders and we shouldn't do that. That's when they repeat the crime, when while they're out on bond. We let people out early on their sentences even after they've committed repeat crimes, which we shouldn't do that. So we've got to strengthen our state laws so people have to serve their full term. And if it means we have to build more prisons, we need to build more prisons. Because the cost to our society exceeds the cost of prison beds and we're letting too many people out in Tennessee."
With 48,000 employees on the state payroll, Wamp said one thing he would do if he were elected would be to shrink the footprint of state government.
"I assume Governor Bredesen is going to probably roll 2,000 of them off the state payroll," said Wamp. "We're going to have to continue that trend to keep the budget balanced and the best time to do that is after an eight-year administration. Whether it's Republican or Democrat, government grows historically in Tennessee. ... I'm going to just basically freeze everything when I'm governor to so where we don't fill positions that are unfilled. And we shrink the footprint of state government, be as austere as possible going forward and then hunker down, limiting the government growth until which time we have new revenues coming in so that we don't have to raise taxes."
On health care, Wamp said it must be an incremental, step-by-step approach and a government takeover would not be the best option.
"This is the same government that we're going to let take over our health care and one-sixth of our economy that couldn't get ice and water to the Superdome after Katrina; it's the same government," said Wamp. "So, the last thing we need to do is turn more health care over to the government because the government's not capable of delivering that. And you're going to have more and more people go into this public option, which creates a government health care system, no matter what they say, that's what happens."