Just as the leaves turn colors and there is a nip in the morning air heralding the arrival of fall, the annual Farm-City Breakfast serves as a reminder of the contributions of farming to American life.

The annual event that provides us with a time to pause and be thankful for the partnership of town and country is sponsored by the Cumberland County Farm Bureau and, as in years past, was celebrated with breakfast at Cumberland Mountain State Park.

Newly elected Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) was this year’s speaker and while little was said about agriculture, Sexton outlined a lot of things he hopes Tennesseans are thankful.

He also made some predictions on what to expect in the upcoming year.

“The state was very fortunate to have had Bill Haslam as governor,” Sexton said. When Haslam was elected, the budget was not balanced and “there were a lot of hard decisions that had to be made.”

As a result, Tennessee is recognized as “one of the most fiscally stable,” is tops in job growth and most recently was ranked second as the most friendly state in the union.

Sexton said there were over 300,000 new jobs brought to Tennessee under Haslam — 40,000 last year — which is testament to the state being on the right track

TennCare is still a top expenditure in Tennessee’s budget, Sexton said.

One issue needing work is the collection of sales tax. The Speaker noted that Tennessee is a “sales tax-run state” but currently only 85% is turned into the state. That equals $2-billion annually which trickles down and affects local communities.

Sexton talked about a change in the approach to mental health and substance abuse. “The state has thrown away a lot of money on 30-day and 60-day programs that do not work. We need to do a better job,” he said.

On education, Sexton noted that work quality increases with education and that improving both are a key to better-paying jobs. 

Concerning the school voucher program, the state is proceeding on course despite an uncertain course. He predicted that several bills trying to delay implementation or change of the present law will be filed this year, along with several lawsuits challenging the school voucher program.

Along the same line, Tennessee needs to continue to work on programs that will “do things to get families out of poverty.”

As part of his introduction to his new post, Sexton said he has traveled the length of the state and among the things he is thankful for is a family that has allowed him to serve and “how blessed we are here to have our way of life.”

Sexton recognized the cooperation between the city and county mayor, noting that is not always the case across the state. “They recognize that what is good for one, is good for all,” the Speaker said.

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