General Assembly Hears State Of The State Address
Governor unveils budget proposal; Makes largest K-12 education investment without a tax increase in state history
Governor Bill Haslam delivered his annual State of the State Address to a joint convention of the legislature this week, unveiling his budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Haslam addressed multiple issues during the State of the State, the most prominent of which include job recruitment and workforce development, a continued push to make government more efficient and effective, and major investments in both K-12 and higher education.
Among the key points in the Governor’s speech was a focus on a balanced budget, low taxes, fiscal responsibility, and the proposal of 261 million in new dollars for Tennessee public education, including $104.6 million for teacher salaries — the largest investment in K-12 education without a tax increase in state history.
As Washington, D.C. and other states are mired in partisan gridlock, the Governor emphasized that Tennessee has made responsible decisions that will continue to ensure the state is positioned to be a top leader in the country on jobs.
Haslam’s $34.8 billion balanced budget proposal builds up state reserves, puts Tennessee on the path to catch up on long-deferred maintenance of buildings, reinvests in the state workforce, and focuses one-time dollars on reducing the state’s ongoing costs.
Including the current fiscal year’s appropriation, state government will invest more than 414 million in new dollars in Tennessee schools. Additionally, Haslam proposed funding the 12th month of health insurance for teachers and doubling the state’s recurring contribution for technology needs at schools.
The governor’s proposal puts $100 million into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing it to an estimated $668 million on June 30, 2017, $60 million for salary increases for state employees, and another $36 million for market rate adjustments for state employees making less than $50,000 annually.
Haslam proposed significant investments in higher education and the Drive to 55 initiative, the state’s effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by 2025, including:
- $50 million for the Complete College funding formula for higher education;
- $20 million for the Drive to 55 Capacity Fund to help community and technical colleges meet the growing demand for degrees and certificates; and
- $10 million for the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) helping communities align degree and course offerings with the needs of the local workforce.
The proposal invests $581.6 million in state and other funds to build new buildings and fix existing higher education and general state government facilities. This includes the top recommended capital projects for both the University of Tennessee (UT) system and the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR):
- $85.5 million for a new Tennessee Tech University laboratory science building;
- $39 million for a new dentistry building at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis;
- $38.8 million for Tennessee State University’s new health science building; and
- $36 million for renovations to UT-Chattanooga academic buildings.
Other notable budget investments are:
- $130 million from the General Fund to repay the Highway Fund;
- $24 million in state funds for the Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES program to allow the state to serve more people currently on the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ waiting list and others eligible for services;
- $12.8 million for facilities and homeland security upgrades for the Military Department;
- $10 million for the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Rural Development Initiative; and
- $1.27 million to increase the number of drug recovery courts from 41 to 50 and for two additional veterans courts.
The complete text of the governor’s speech, an archived video and budget documents will be available at http://tn.gov/governor/topic/state-of-the-state.
I have filed a bill to ensure that students use the restroom that is assigned to the sex on their birth certificate. I initially received quite a few hostile phone calls and emails from transgender activists but perhaps they realized that we are on firm legal ground as courts have recognized a constitutional right to privacy that includes a right not to be compelled by the Government to undress or be unclothed in the presence of members of the opposite sex... please read the bill by clicking above.
Amicus Brief has been submitted to the Court - I have joined with Americans United for Life in Defending Health and Safety Standards for Women vulnerable to abortion industry abuses. It is very important for us to submit this amicus brief because the laws we passed in Tennessee as a result of Amendment 1 could be overturned should the plaintiffs win this case. Please read more by clicking above.
In 1797, one of our Founding Fathers, George Mason, realized that a path to proposing amendments had been put into the Constitution for Congress, but there was no a path for state governments to propose amendments. The Founding Fathers wisely understood that there might come a time when the federal government would not restrain itself. Therefore they unanimously voted for Article V to include the language that allows states to amend the Constitution.
Article V requires that 34 states make the identical call, and that for any amendment to be added to the Constitution, it would take 38 states to ratify. The call is to consider and propose amendments to THIS Constitution; it is not to write a NEW Constitution. The passage in 38 states is an extremely hard threshold for any amendment to be ratified, and with good reason. The SJR0067 that Tennessee passed is a very limited call to consider only three things:
1) Federal fiscal responsibility
2) Limit scope and power of federal government
3) Consider term limits for federal officials
This call has passed in 4 other states with Tennessee being the 5th. It is in over 30 State Houses this year.
We also already have legislation passed in Tennessee that would make it a felony for our delegates to vote on anything outside what is in our call. We have also made sure that we would have alternate delegates. Historically, states have one vote for each state.
Tonight, February 7, 2016 is the final floor vote on school vouchers for underprivileged students in failing schools. The bill will in no way impact Wilson County. Please read my article here.