published Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Political Notebook: Just one Haslam billionaire

  • photo
    In this undated file photo provided by Pilot Travel Centers LLC, Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Haslam is shown. Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner has reached a deal to sell the team to Haslam III, according to multiple reports on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. ESPN and the NFL Network said Thursday that an agreement on the team sale had been reached. ESPN said the sale price was for more than $1 billion.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

During the 2010 governor's race, Bill Haslam rejected assertions by GOP primary rival Zach Wamp that he was a billionaire, but Haslam wouldn't say what his net worth was nor share his income tax returns with voters.

Well, it turns out there's at least one billionaire in the Haslam family, which founded Pilot Travel Centers, a privately held company that later merged with Flying J truck stop centers.

The governor's brother, Jimmy Haslam, made Forbes Magazine's latest annual list of the 400 richest Americans this week. The magazine puts the net worth of Jimmy Haslam, CEO of the Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops, at $1.2 billion. That drew a ranking of 360 among the 400 wealthiest Americans.

Jimmy Haslam recently bought the Cleveland Browns in a deal estimated at $1 billion. In late July, Forbes reported the governor's brother "should have the cash to pull off the deal. He's part of a powerful family worth more than $3 billion."

The governor; his father, Jim Haslam II; and other families have major interests in Pilot Flying J. Haslam put his non-Pilot holdings in a blind trust but kept his holdings in Pilot out of it.

Hospital cuts warning

Tennessee Hospital Association President Craig Becker is warning that federal spending cuts set to go into effect in the federal fiscal year starting Oct. 1 will prove devastating to both hospitals and communities, which stand to lose nearly 25,000 jobs.

Cuts set to go into effect during the next 12 months include a $93 million reduction as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

And if Congress doesn't act quickly, there is another $83 million reduction under a 2 percent sequestration passed last year to address the federal deficit. On top of that, 20 rural hospitals face reductions of up to 25 percent in Medicare.

"To put these reductions in perspective," Becker said, "the total economic impact in the first year will be equivalent to losing a factory of more than 250 jobs in every one of Tennessee's 95 counties."

Becker said that doesn't take into account the loss of access to health care that could occur in some areas of the state.

"Congress still has an opportunity to mitigate some of the damage that will be done," Becker noted, "but the window is closing rapidly."

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, meanwhile, told reporters this week his administration has made no decision yet on whether to go along with an expansion of TennCare, the state's version of Medicaid, which is envisioned by President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act but said states cannot be compelled to expand Medicaid as mandated in the law.

Haslam called it a "pretty complex decision. I think at this point in time, all we're trying to do is to help [lawmakers] understand all the different ramifications of the decisions."

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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