Vanderbilt's First and Only Nonpartisan Political Journal

Vanderbilt Political Review

Vanderbilt's First and Only Nonpartisan Political Journal

Vanderbilt Political Review

Vanderbilt's First and Only Nonpartisan Political Journal

Vanderbilt Political Review

OP-ED: Why Graduates Should Stay in Tennessee: Governor Lee’s 2024 State of the State Address

Governor Lee delivers his sixth State of the State address

The greatest fear of any college student is not having a job upon graduation. While many Vanderbilt students look to land positions in large job markets like New York and California, they shouldn’t neglect to look closer at their second home. In his recent State of the State address on Feb. 5, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee made an excellent argument as to why staying in Tennessee is a wise choice for any graduate. 

In his opening remarks, Lee emphasized the significance of Tennessee’s strong tradition of fiscal responsibility. 

“Over the past five years, Tennessee has been ranked as the fastest-growing economy of all 50 states, the number one state for fiscal stability, a top state for business, the second lowest-taxed state per capita, and the lowest debt state in America,” Lee said. “Any state would envy the position that we’ve been in.”

Furthermore, in the past three years, six states in the Southeast, including Tennessee, have contributed more to the U.S.’s GDP than the entire Northeast. While once overlooked, Tennessee and the South appear to be a new hotspot for job-seekers looking for a strong and stable economy.

For those students looking to work for large companies, they are here, and more are on their way. Lee said companies have invested 35 billion dollars in Tennessee since 2019, creating over 211,000 jobs. Furthermore, Lee stated that he is simplifying the state’s franchise tax, making Tennessee an even more attractive place to do business. With Lee’s proposed changes, businesses expect to save over 410 million dollars annually. With an unemployment rate lower than the national average and more jobs to come, Tennessee deserves recent graduates’ attention.

While there are jobs for every career, Tennessee is especially attractive for students seeking a career in the music industry. Tennessee ranks as the number one state for music industry jobs, and Lee plans on ensuring this remains the case by protecting artists with his Elvis Act. This legislation ensures that AI cannot replicate the voices of Tennessee artists. Graduates seeking a job in the music industry should feel a sense of security if they decide to work in Tennessee, as Lee has made it clear that he deeply values their work. 

Lee also increased public school funding by 1.8 million dollars since his term, which included the largest teacher pay raise in Tennessee history. It is evident that Lee is working to create an excellent education system with the brightest and most talented teachers. His commitment to education should encourage education majors to search for a job in Tennessee. Furthermore, for graduates who plan on having children, it is reassuring to know that they will receive an excellent education. 

Vanderbilt alumnus, Christian Potucek ‘21, is originally from Missouri, but after four years at Vanderbilt, he chose to remain in Nashville to work under Lee as the Deputy Chief of Staff, External Affairs. 

“Staying in Nashville was an easy choice: Tennessee is a place with so many intangibles—diverse natural beauty, rich culture, and incredible people—but it is also a place with near limitless economic opportunity, and Governor Lee’s committed leadership gives me great confidence that Tennessee will remain prosperous for generations to come,” Potucek said. 

For those like Potucek who decide to live in a city for more reasons than its access to a good job, Lee wants to make Tennessee more appealing. 

After four rigorous years at Vanderbilt, graduates may want to settle in an area that offers a good quality of life. Thankfully, Lee vows to attack the mental health and substance abuse problem. He stated that he plans to invest over 100 million dollars over a period of five years in behavioral health and substance abuse resources, making Tennessee a more enjoyable place to live. 

Lee also pledges to ensure Tennessee is a safe place to live. With a 150 million dollar Violent Crime Intervention Grant Fund, Lee provided funding for 200 new Tennessee Highway Patrol Troopers and plans to provide funding for 60 more troopers this year. Recent graduates should value Lee’s commitment to safety because it reflects a dedication to fostering a secure and orderly environment, which not only enhances public safety but also contributes to the overall well-being and economic stability of Tennessee. 

Lastly, Lee guarantees that Tennessee will remain a “beautiful place” to live. To name a few initiatives, Lee is designating funding to create eight new Tennessee State Parks, improve water quality at rivers, lakes, and streams across the state, and protect and enhance scenic beauty along the state’s major highways. College graduates will likely reap the greatest benefits from these initiatives as they maintain an active lifestyle. Furthermore, it is encouraging to know future generations will have the opportunity to share in the beauty of Tennessee.  

“We each have our spot on the wall. An important spot,” Lee said. “Only when we work together – side by side – will we build upon, protect and create that which is one of the greatest places in all the world, and ensure that it remains for those who live here, for those who want to live here, and their children and their children’s children.”

Photo courtesy of Bill Lee’s Office from Flickr. Used with permission.

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About the Contributor
Nick Geoghegan, Contributor
Nick is a junior from Louisville, Kentucky, majoring in Political Science and American Studies. Nick is interested in state and U.S. politics. In his free time, he enjoys working out, golfing, and reading.