by Jeff Woods
Bill Gibbons, relishing his role as the skunk at the garden party in the governor's race, came up with a great way to fund universal pre-K education today at a candidate forum: Gibbons wants to tax Bill Haslam.
Actually, Gibbons proposed reducing fees the state pays retailers to sell lottery tickets and putting that money into the pre-K program. In the process, he took a swipe at Big Oil, a.k.a. the Haslam family's Pilot Corp. Asked whether he favors expanding pre-K to all children, Gibbons said:
Simply put, I'm for it. We need to move toward making pre-K education available for every child in Tennessee whose parents want it, voluntary not mandatory. The question is how to pay for it without raising taxes, and we need to be creative in figuring some ways to do that. Here's one way. We've spent some of our lottery money on pre-K education. But frankly, we have big chain retailers taking in tens of millions of dollars in lottery money as a result of lottery tickets sold at their establishments. We need to look at reducing the amount of money those big chain retailers are taking from the lottery and put that money into pre-K education. The result frankly will be that Big Oil is getting less money from the lottery but the children of our state are getting more benefits from the lottery.
As for the rest of the candidates, Democrats Mike McWherter and Kim McMillan were for expanding pre-K too. Republicans Haslam and Ron Ramsey said we probably can't afford it, and Zach Wamp didn't really say one way or the other.