Current, former Tennessee governors to address rising federal debt

·3 min read

Mar. 2—As Congress prepares to push the national debt to nearly $25 trillion with the latest spending plans, a group of millennial leaders worried about America's growing federal debt will get some advice next week from Tennessee's current and former governors about balancing budgets.

Tennessee's current governor and two of the state's former governors will speak in a rare joint appearance next week to address efforts to tackle the U.S. budget deficit, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will total $2.3 trillion this year even with an improving economy.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican in his first term, and former two-term governors Bill Haslam, a Republican, and Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, will discuss the consequences of the growing federal debt during a one-hour virtual event from 2-3 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 11, at the Beacon Center in Nashville which is sponsoring the event along with the Tennessee Chapter of Americans for Prosperity and the Millennial Debt Foundation.

Weston Wamp, the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp who twice ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in Tennessee's 3rd congressional district, is chairman and founder of the Millennial Debt Foundation and the Millennial Debt Commission working to find long-range solutions to America's growing federal debt.

"It's no secret that on both sides of the aisle in Washington, the deficit has not been taken seriously for some time," Wamp said. "So I believe we've got to begin to have conversations across the country among local, state, federal officials, business leaders and others about what the impact of that will be."

Without a change in course, the size of the federal debt is projected to double in the next generation, far exceeding the country's GDP and potentially threatening U.S. sovereignty over its currency over time.

Wamp said governors have a unique perspective on budget deficits because they are mandated to have balanced budgets during good times and during economic downturns "so they make tough decisions all the time.

"These three governors in Tennessee at different times and for different reasons have each been forced to make really difficult decisions and because they have I believe our state's fiscal health is relatively strong and that is a key reason why we are such an attractive state for people to do business in," Wamp said.

Tennessee maintains one of the lowest per capita debt levels among the states and ranked favorable in a recent study of states' economic competitiveness.

Next week's forum among the Tennessee governors is part of a year-long conversation that the Millennial Debt Foundation is having with leaders across the country, including a discussion last month with state political leaders in Texas and a planned virtual forum next month with federal elected officials in Wisconsin.

Wamp and Beacon Center Chief Executive Officer Justin Owen will join Gov. Lee and the former governors in the hour-long discussion.

"Fiscal responsibility is one of the cornerstones of Tennessee's success story," Owen said. "Because of the free-market policies and fiscal responsibility championed by the past three Governors and the Beacon Center alike, Tennessee is the gold standard when it comes to fiscal stewardship."

The forum, which is part of the Millennial Debt Foundation's Stewardship Series, also will include at 3 p.m. EST discussion with U.S. Rep. Mark Green and Millennial Debt Commission members and Chattanooga business leaders Cam Doody and Nick Macco.

"Between our January launch of the Stewardship Series in Austin and the time we convene in Nashville, the national debt is likely to increase by another $2 trillion," Wamp said. "Tennessee, like Texas, is a state where sound fiscal policy and good stewardship of the state economy has blossomed under conservative fiscal policies of all three governors, and we are honored to have these distinguished governors join us."

Persons interested in watching the event may register at

Contact Dave Flessner at at 757-6340