Tenn. House OKs Expansion of Business Cash Grants

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – House Republicans insist their vote Wednesday for a plan to expand the scope of a state economic development inventive program does not conflict with their mantra that government can't create jobs.

The chamber voted 96-0 for the measure proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam and carried by Republican Rep. Tim Wirgau of Paris, who said the expanded cash grant program would help spur investment in economically distressed areas of the state.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick told The Associated Press that his preference would be to focus on improving the state's business climate alone. But the Chattanooga Republican said the state must offer incentives in order to compete with other states.

"Unfortunately the playing field right now requires you to give incentives to businesses to expand or move to the state," McCormick said. "That's the way the game is played."

"We can't show up to a football game dressed in basketball uniforms."

The measure, which awaits a vote in the Senate before it can head for Haslam's signature, would allow the state to provide Fast Track grants to cover retrofitting, relocation, office upgrades or temporary space for companies investing in Tennessee.

The current Fast Track program is limited to jobs training and infrastructure improvements. The state has appropriated $217 million to the program over the last three budget years and Haslam has proposed pouring another $80 million for the current and upcoming budget years.

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