Gov. Haslam unveils positive $32.7 billion plan to legislature
Benefiting from his two years in office, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a $32.7 billion budget plan to a joint meeting of the House and Senate of the General Assembly Monday night.
It was a very positive outlook, especially when compared with our national situation.
The governor stressed that Tennessee’s finances have remained strong despite the economic downturn.
The only proposal which drew much opposition was one which would provide state-financed vouchers for up to 5,000 of our lowest-income students from our lowest-performing public schools to attend private schools.
The number could be increased to 20,000 by 2016. Opponents fear it would eventually take funding from public education.
Perhaps his most positive step was to make major corrections in the recently criticized Department of Children’s Services, increasing the budget, pay and requirements for employees in order to better prepare these children from very difficult family situations for success.
Some of the very positive points included:
• $21.2 million to reduce grocery sales tax from 5.25 percent to 5 percent.
• $30 million for Jobs4TN.
• $43.2 million for Basic Education Program formula growth.
• $76.5 million for 1.5 percent pay increase for state employees, teachers and higher education.
• $307.3 million for higher education capital projects and $166 million for state capital projects.
• $35.5 million to higher education institutions that increase graduation rates.
• $100 million to the rainy day fund to bring it to $450 million on June 30, 2014.
• $51 million for K-12 local technology and infrastructure improvements. He noted that Tennessee is among only a small number of states that hasn’t cut K-12 education spending in the past two years.
• $18.7 million to increase inheritance tax exemption level to $2 million.
• $1.6 million for drug courts.
• $48.1 million for local jail funding of felons.
• $1.5 million to increase Hall tax exemption for people over 65.
• Beginning in January 2014, state government expects to add $17 million in revenue annually after http://Amazon.com starts collecting sales tax on items purchased by Tennesseans.
Perhaps as much appreciated as any is $1 million to reduce the long wait for driver’s license renewals that has been a growing problem for years.
The Haslam administration has filed a total of 59 non-budget related bills.
Gov. Haslam summed up his program:
“We’re proposing to cut taxes further, address college affordability and encourage degree attainment, improve the environment for job creation and make Tennesseans safer.
“Tennessee is different. We’re not like Washington or other states because we work together to get things done for Tennesseans, and we’ll continue to focus on the things that matter most to Tennesseans.”