ROGERSVILLE — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker voiced concern Friday for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s future amid TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore’s retirement announcement.
The Tennessee Republican told a Rogersville/Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce gathering at the Holston Electric Cooperative that he’s worried about the governing structure of the electricity supplier.
“The federal government makes the appointments of board members to TVA,” Corker explained. “A lot of times, it’s around politics and not so much around people who are qualified to deal with nuclear reactors and other kinds of things. I think this is a good opportunity to look at TVA and hopefully look at the model of TVA and continue to have low energy prices here.”
After his remarks to the chamber group, Corker told reporters the TVA’s board members are not “the same type of board member you would see at a Duke Energy or a Southern Company.”
TVA announced its board is retaining an executive search firm to identify candidates to succeed Kilgore, who will continue to serve until a successor is hired.
While the TVA said its 2013 budget includes no increase in wholesale electric rates, Corker indicated he’s worried about the federal utility’s competitiveness with private energy companies.
“One of the great benefits of this region is not only the tremendous work ethic of the people here ... but it’s also been the structure of our energy costs here,” Corker said. “If you look at most of the major industrial companies that want to locate here in Tennessee, energy has been a huge factor.”
Corker moved from talking about the TVA to strongly endorsing GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney’s decision to name Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee.
“I literally came about three feet off the floor from a sitting position,” Corker said of Romney’s VP pick. “One thing I think both sides of the aisle ought to be thankful for is that with the addition of (Ryan) into the race, it means the debate hopefully will be centered on things that actually matter to the country. ... This is probably the most important presidential race since 1980 (when Ronald Reagan was elected).”
That debate, said Corker, should focus on the federal government’s fiscal discipline.
“Lots of major corporations are starting to have their quarterly board meetings in Washington,” Corker noted. “That’s unfortunate because the reason these companies are having quarterly board meetings in Washington is because we have such a big impact on their business. ... The biggest drag on the economy is whether Washington is going to have the discipline to get its fiscal house in order. ... The balance sheets actually are fairly flush in much of the country, but they’re not sure what we’re going to do in Washington — whether we’re actually going to deal with this fiscal dilemma and these deficits.”
Corker said the biggest congressional fight is over Medicare, the health care program for seniors.
“I hope that when this (presidential) election is over, our country will finally be educated enough and politicians will be willing enough to actually deal with this issue,” Corker said of Medicare.
Corker noted the average American pays in $119,000 to Medicare but uses $357,000 in benefits.
“You cannot make that up with volume. ... Social Security has issues, but those are issues far more easily solved,” Corker said. “Twenty million more (people) are coming on Medicare in the next 10 years.”
Corker, who is up for re-election in November, said he plans to file his own budget plan next year.
“I’m prepared the day after this election when people quit fighting over (Medicare) ... to focus on a consensus bill,” he said. “I am more optimistic that we will put this fiscal issue in the rearview mirror in the next six months to a year and a half. We will again be able to focus on the greatness of this nation.”