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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Lt. Gov. McNally discusses fiscal policy, crime and legislative experience with Vanderbilt College Republicans

McNally spoke and took questions from Vanderbilt students as the Tennessee General Assembly currently debates potential legislation.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally speaks to the Vanderbilt College Republicans in Alumni Hall
Shane Mumma
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally speaks to the Vanderbilt College Republicans in Alumni Hall, as photographed on March 22, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Shane Mumma)

The Vanderbilt College Republicans (VCR) hosted Tennessee Lieutenant Governor (R) Randy McNally on March 22 for a discussion about the state’s legislative activity and current political issues. Students asked McNally questions about fiscal policy, gun laws, crime and his governmental experience.

McNally has served in the Tennessee General Assembly for 43 years and currently represents the 5th District in the Tennessee Senate, which includes Anderson, Loudon and part of Knox counties. He was first elected to his position as Speaker of the Tennessee Senate in 2017, a position that doubles as Lieutenant Governor in Tennessee. VCR President and junior Shane Mumma said he was excited to have McNally visit Vanderbilt’s campus.

“I wanted to have Lt. Gov. McNally come speak to VCR as he is one of TN’s highest-ranking elected officials and plays a crucial role in Tennessee’s state legislature,” Mumma said. “Last semester, we had the distinct honor of hosting Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, so I knew I wanted to hear from the other chamber’s leader.”

Fiscal policy

Mumma introduced McNally as a “finance and budget expert” at the event, citing his former chairmanship of the Tennessee Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee, as well as his oversight of the General Assembly’s passage of Tennessee’s Constitutionally-required balanced budget.

McNally began his remarks by touting Tennessee’s No. 1 national ranking for long-term fiscal stability, according to the U.S. News & World Report Fiscal Stability Rankings. He also mentioned the state’s AAA credit rating, the highest possible grade, by all three major credit rating agencies.

“If you’re a business or industry coming to Tennessee, you know that we won’t have to raise your taxes to meet obligations,” McNally said.

He cited Tennessee’s lack of road debt, “very little bonded debt” and top 5 nationally-ranked pension fund stability as contributing factors to the state’s fiscal stability.

“Our taxes in Tennessee are among the very lowest in the country,” McNally said.

McNally also referred to the state’s elimination of state income, gift and inheritance taxes, which totaled reductions of about half a billion dollars over the terms of Tennessee Governors Haslam (R) and Lee (R).

“Our revenues continue to rise in part because of the good fiscal stability Tennessee has,” McNally said. “We attract a lot of industry, the latest being Ford Motor Company, which will be located in West Tennessee about 40 miles outside of Memphis.”

McNally called on Congress to model federal fiscal policy after Tennessee’s requirements for legislative spending to minimize national debt, which is more than $30 trillion.

“If your bill costs a million dollars, then you have to find that money in the budget. You have to either take out a million dollars or have another bill or the same bill that raises a million dollars,” McNally said about the Tennessee General Assembly’s budget process. “Some of the best practices are in states like Florida, Texas and Tennessee, where they keep taxes low and provide necessary services—they don’t splurge on extras. That’s probably the best cure.”

Crime and drugs

Given recent reports of assaults of Vanderbilt community members, McNally was asked how the state legislature could address crime in cities like Nashville.

“Unfortunately, drugs and the money that is in drugs have done a lot to increase it [crime]. The more that we can crackdown on the cause, the better we can do,” McNally said. “I’m a proponent of fairly stiff punishments.”

McNally went on to describe how further developing recovery courts that cater to drug abuse, veteran treatment and mental health cases can help lower the prison population for nonviolent offenders.

Currently, the use of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes is illegal in Tennessee. McNally stood by the current policies in the state despite recent efforts to legalize marijuana use. 

“[Marijuana] has psychological addiction associated with it,” McNally said. “I’ve always voted no on marijuana legalization.”

He did acknowledge, however, that a majority of Tennesseans, including many Republicans, support some forms of marijuana legalization and was open to “showing some leniency” toward minor offenders.

According to the May 2015 Vanderbilt poll, 24% of surveyed Tennessee registered voters supported personal use of marijuana, and an additional 48% of respondents believed the drug should be allowed for medicinal use. Only 25% of surveyed Tennesseans indicated they believed marijiana should not be legalized.

Legislative experience

McNally emphasized the importance of fostering bipartisanship in the state Senate. 

“I get along with Jeff Yarbro [D], the minority leader in the [Tennessee] Senate. We try to work with all sides and try to develop things to benefit Tennessee and protect Tennesseans,” McNally said. “Just because an individual is a Democrat doesn’t mean they can’t have good ideas. It’s better to try to work out problems, and it’s better to remain civil when you interact with other people. They’re representing other people too.”

McNally also explained his support for Tennessee’s “constitutional carry” gun law, voter ID requirement and controlled substance monitoring database program. McNally spent his professional career outside politics as a pharmacist, leading him to push for the database to help curtail opioid abuse in the state. 

Mumma said he enjoyed McNally’s conservative perspective throughout the discussion as well as his affable personality.

“What also stood out to me was how great it was to get to actually have personal, intimate interaction with such an important member of the state government,” Mumma said. “Lt. Gov. McNally took the time to go around shaking hands with our members before the event, and even stayed after to eat pizza and socialize with us after.”

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About the Contributor
Matthew Shipley
Matthew Shipley, Former Senior Staff Writer
Matthew Shipley (‘25) is from Hendersonville, Tenn., and is majoring in economics, mathematics and political science and minoring in data science. He enjoys closely following the U.S. Supreme Court, playing basketball and being involved in his faith community. He can be reached at [email protected].
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