Not to be outdone by his conservative headlining colleagues like Gov. DeSantis of Florida, Gov. Noem of South Dakota, or Gov. Abbott of Texas, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) has surprised his own party in the state legislature by announcing an interesting new program to draw tourists to the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Governor Lee launched the new initiative he’s calling “Tennesee On Me” with a collaborated video with Country Music Artist Brad Paisley. Gov. Lee and Paisley bantered back and forth in the video as if they were struggling to write a jingle.
For 10,000 people visiting Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville the state will offer $250 airline vouchers provided that they are staying for at least two nights and if they reserve their accommodations through TennesseeOnMe.com.
“The state’s buying all these airline tickets and giving them away to anybody who books two nights in a hotel room to come to Tennessee, so it’s ‘Tennessee on me,'” Lee said to Paisley “Tennessee on Gov. Lee,” Paisley replied.
Tennessee is known around the world for its music, scenic beauty & iconic attractions, and I'm excited to team up with @BradPaisley to promote @TNVacation. 10k airline vouchers are up for grabs when travelers book a trip to Tennessee. Learn more at https://t.co/gTUps7pffx. https://t.co/Gfdw5dG8tT
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) July 4, 2021
Legislators Claim They Were “Blindsided” By The Governor
Surprisingly Lee is seeing some pushback even from his fellow Republicans according to Tennessean.com,
“Legislators were apparently blindsided by the July 4 announcement of state funds being used to pay for tourists’ airfare. Neither Lt. Gov. Randy McNally nor House Speaker Cameron Sexton were aware of the program’s details prior to its launch, they said. “
Lt. Gov. McNally grumbled in a statement that Tennesee’s tourism “bounced back in record time” and that he would’ve preferred a “more traditional approach”, he also expressed concerns about “direct transfers of Tennessee taxpayer money to mostly out-of-state recipients.” One of McNally’s chief complaints is that the vouchers are only offered for people staying in the major cities, when “At least two of those cities exacerbated the economic crisis by instituting overly aggressive lockdown policies.” while rural areas “were hit as hard, if not harder, by the economic crisis than those cities.”
Meanwhile, other Republicans like Speaker Sexton were more willing to let the Governor run with the innovative albeit surprising and unorthodox approach. The Tennessean wrote that Sexton “also would like to see the scope of the program expanded beyond Tennessee’s largest cities, but said he would wait and see the effectiveness of the program, which has for now only been funded for one year.”
“It was approved in our budget,” Sexton conceded with a tentative affirmation. “We’ll see how it works.”
Sen. Bo Watson, chairman of the Senate finance committee did take at least one issue with the initiative after confirming the $2.5 million allocation for the “marketing project”, and it was of all things an issue with the jingle and slogan. “The people of Tennessee are inviting you to come to Tennessee, not the governor,” Watson said. “This is not the governor’s money, this is taxpayers’ money.
As interesting as this new initiative is, it’s a bit too narrow and only favors the cities, and Watson has good point. While “Tennesee on Me” has a nice ring to it, it’s a bit self-aggrandizing, “Come See Tennesee On Us” would’ve done just as well without giving Lee’s detractors that stick to beat him with. But Governor Lee is very popular and has drawn no serious contenders for his next election, so like Sexton said, “We’ll see how it works.”