Putting Bill Haslam's gubernatorial ad to the truth test

Putting Bill Haslam's gubernatorial ad to the truth test

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By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - 6 News put the TV ad for Knoxville mayor, now Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bill Haslam to the truth test.

Haslam is the first candidate to air an ad this political season. It's running statewide and offers voters, unfamiliar with the two-time Knoxville mayor, an opportunity to get to know him.

The ad prominently features his family's business, Pilot Oil. That's somewhat ironic, because his opponents have criticized him for refusing to disclose income from that business.

While with Pilot, the ad claims Haslam helped create 11,000 jobs. His campaign, however, admits that only about 1700 jobs are in Tennessee.

The ad claims Haslam recruited jobs in Knoxville. 6 News asked which ones? The campaign's answer is thousands of jobs from the "likes of Sysco, Home and Garden Television, Green Mountain Coffee, Ameristeel and others."

Those businesses may have increased their workforce over the Haslam years, but of those cited, only Green Mountain Coffee is a new Knoxville company. The others have been here for years.

Sysco, for example, has been operating in the Knoxville area since 1982, but it built a new multi-million dollar facility in 2008.

The ad also credits Haslam with bringing the city its lowest property tax rate in 50 years. However, in his first full year as mayor, Haslam recommended a 35 cent increase in the property tax rate.

So how is it now the lowest in half a century? The campaign says it has to do with the property reappraisals of 2009. Property values went up and the tax rate went down to compensate.

What the ad doesn't say is rates have to go down by law, not by mayoral initiative.

The ad finishes with the line he "made the city strong again." The campaign says that statement is true because Haslam "lowered the city's debt by 25 percent and submitted six balanced budgets."

Haslam's campaign added that he led the revitalization of downtown and extended it into the core neighborhoods surrounding Knoxville.

So which claims are true?

The debt is lower.

But submitting balanced budgets is a mandate. Unlike the federal government, the mayor must present a balanced budget. Haslam's predecessor, Victor Ashe, submitted 16 balanced budgets.

On leading revitalization efforts, Haslam said early in his first term he was following up on downtown initiatives already in place by the prior administration. 

Still, most people give Haslam much of the credit for bringing about a more vibrant and exciting downtown.

So does the ad pass the truth test? While the claims are based on facts, some of the statements are misleading.

But like most campaign ads, there's truth and there's spin. This ad has a little of both.

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