In Knoxville, Haslam outlines plans on Obamacare, education, jobs

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Gov. Bill Haslam told 400 business and civic leaders Friday that he chose to let the federal government run the state's health care exchange to avoid "hav(ing) two cooks in the kitchen."

Haslam, a Republican, added that letting the Obama administration set it up for the state wouldn't make much of a difference and that it's not a permanent decision. The state could always choose to take over the exchange.

The former Knoxville mayor returned to his old stomping grounds Friday morning to discuss his plans for the upcoming legislative session. He spoke before a packed house which included city mayor Madeline Rogero.

Haslam told them he had no intention for cutting K-12 education funding as other states had done, citing a direct link between education and business development.

Extending that link beyond high school, he said that over half of new jobs will require at least a two-year degree. With only one in five Tennesseans meeting that qualification, Haslam plans to push his "drive to 55" initiative.

Turning to the economy, Haslam pointed out that unemployment has hit a 4 1/2 year low and Tennessee has led the region in manufacturing job growth. He now says he wants to turn his attention to working with Y-12 and the UT Engineering School to compete for new jobs.

He did caution, though, that the state will face significant budget pressures in the coming years as it tries to fund workforce development and TennCare as federal funding goes away.

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