The Tennessee Tea Party accused Gov. Bill Haslam Wednesday of holding “socialistic” principles, upping the ante in the fight over whether to repeal collective bargaining for public school teachers.
To reporters after a speech to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Republican governor laughed off the Tea Party claim.
“I’ve said all along I’m not going to get into the name-exchanging business with anybody,” he said.
But even Tea Party allies in the legislature quickly came to his defense. Haslam favors limiting collective bargaining to certain issues, including merit pay for teachers, while the Tea Party and hardliners in the legislature want to end teachers’ union collective bargaining altogether.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said of the Tea Party’s slam of Haslam.
“The governor and I are working closely on these issues, and I feel like we’ll have some resolution in the end. I hope it will be closer to the Senate bill in the end than it is to the House bill. That’s been my goal from the very beginning,” Ramsey said.
“You don’t get anywhere by calling people names, by insulting people. That’s never been my style and never will be my style, so I disagree with them. I wish they wouldn’t do that. You do catch more with honey than you do with vinegar. Any good ol’ country boy like me knows that if you get punched in the mouth, that makes you bow up even more. So I think that’s the wrong tactic and I disagree with it.”
In its message, the Tea Party said: “Look at our new governor. By all accounts, he is a progressive who was able to leverage family fortunes towards a victory in gaining the Governor’s seat. One only needs to look at his track record as mayor of Knoxville and his embrace of the socialistic principals [sic] such as” environmental issues.
The Tea Party also criticized Haslam for “his two-faced approach” toward Second Amendment issues.