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District 7: Hill says state has flourished under Republican leadership

David Floyd • Jul 6, 2020 at 8:05 PM

State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2004.

Hill is a graduate of Northeast State Community College and East Tennessee State University. Hill has worked as a broadcaster and small business owner, and he and his wife Amanda have three children.

He currently serves as chairman of the House Finance, Ways & Means Appropriations Subcommittee and the Select Committee on Rules. He is also a member of the Calendar & Rules; Finance, Ways & Means; Health and Insurance committees.

Hill and Rebecca Keefauver Alexander are the only two candidates who appear on the ballot for the District 7 Republican primary on Aug. 6. No Democrats are running for the seat.

What are some of the primary economic issues impacting the region, and how would you as a state representative go about solving them?

Many communities across Tennessee continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have seen new unemployment claims stabilize, we must continue to support those who have unexpectedly lost jobs and businesses that were forced to close.

I continue to work with our Department of Labor and Workforce Development to ensure we expedite federal and state benefits for those who urgently need them.

I have also partnered with Gov. (Bill) Lee and the Stimulus Accountability Group to provide much-needed relief for small businesses through the Tennessee Business Relief Program.

This will allow us to direct $200 million in federal Coronavirus Relief (CARES Act) Funds through the Department of Revenue to entities that were unable to obtain federal Paycheck Protection Program funding and who qualify for the innovative Business Relief Program.

I am proud to stand with our workers and our businesses, and I will never stop fighting for them.

At what point would you break with the party line?

I don’t believe there is a need to break from party line, but we can all work together for the benefit of our citizens.

There are many different types of conservative leaders spread throughout both state and local government. However, we all share the same fundamental values — limited government, low taxes, separation of national and state government, job creation, protecting our unborn and preserving the unalienable rights granted to us by our founding fathers, including the right to bear arms.

These values unite our party, and they have helped Tennessee reach new heights. Under Republican leadership, our state has quickly become the best place in the entire nation to live, work, raise a family and retire in recent years. Together, we will ensure this does not change.

When you talk to voters, what are their overarching concerns?

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job as your state representative is the opportunity to get out and visit with folks in our community.

Regardless of who we visit, we hear many of the same concerns: great jobs, great health care, great schools, safe communities, limited government and more freedoms. These very concerns have been and they remain my priorities in Nashville.

The feedback I receive during my conversations and visits help me as I work with Governor Lee and House and Senate leadership to create effective solutions to address the needs of our citizens and all Tennesseans.

How would you prioritize bringing programs and services to the region that would move the needle for struggling families?

In 2019, I led negotiations to establish a Katie Beckett Waiver program so we could alleviate financial burdens for families whose children need lifesaving medical services.

This year, I secured $192,000 in grants to expand COVID-19 testing at East Tennessee State University. I also joined with our Department of Transportation to provide funding for Johnson City Transit so our most vulnerable can access safe, reliable public transportation and paratransit services.

As part of the FY ’20-21 budget, I secured $100,000 for the Crumley House in recurring funds so this organization can continue serving those with traumatic brain injuries, and $100,000 in recurring funds through our Department of Health for the perinatal center at Johnson City Medical Center. As part of last year’s budget, the Johnson City and Jonesborough Senior Centers each received $50,000.

These are just a few examples of my commitment to our vulnerable populations, and I am proud to continue advocating on their behalf.

What is the No. 1 problem facing Tennessee?

There are many important issues facing Tennessee, not just one particular issue. We have already discussed COVID-19 and its impact on small businesses and unemployment.

However, we must remember challenges existed prior to this pandemic, and they will remain long after we have successfully addressed COVID-19.

One issue that I remain passionate about is improving Tennessee’s childhood literacy rates.

While we have invested over a billion dollars in K-12 education over the last eight years and while we have made considerable progress improving outcomes, we cannot accept that roughly two-thirds of our children are not proficient in reading by the time they reach fourth grade.

Legislation drafted by the governor and our General Assembly earlier this year attempted to begin discussions to help change the academic trajectories of our future leaders. I am hopeful we can advance this dialogue during the 112th General Assembly to solidify our future.