Governor Bill Haslam was in a mood to talk about the media Friday, those running to succeed him and how they would run a 10 billion dollar state program.
“The questions that get asked of you running for governor don’t have a whole lot to do with what you do as governor,” said Mr. Haslam after speaking at a conference in Nashville on the media’s changing landscape.
So what would he ask the candidates for governor?
“I would ask them, ‘How are you going to run TennCare?”’ responded the governor without hesitation.
Nearly one and half million lower income Tennesseans are on the state’s Medicaid health insurance program TennCare. Many of them are children.
TennCare is about a quarter of the state’s 37.5-billion-dollar budget, so it’s a puzzle to be solved yearly by any governor.
“TennCare inflation left on its own will go up five percent. If your revenue goes up three percent, you got a problem,” added the governor.
It means governors have a problem if they can’t find the right people to run the huge program.
Tennessee, during the Sundquist administration in the 1990s and early 2000s, had the TennCare inflation problem of eating away money for other state programs.
The governor’s appearance at the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy conference brought out his own perceptions about changes in journalism.
It seemed to prompt his question for the governor’s race candidates and the media itself.
“How are we going to get people to care about what happens on a local and state level? I think it’s a huge challenge for our country,” he told the gathering, which included executives from Google and CNN.
It’s clear Governor Haslam will not be going away quietly as he completes his eighth and final year as Tennessee’s governor.