budget

State revenue was a bit below estimates in November ($4.1M)

Press release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin announced Thursday that overall November state revenues were $957.3 million, which is 5.55 percent more than November 2016, but $4.1 million less than the budgeted estimate.

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ECD deemed winner of Beacon’s TN 2017 ‘Pork of the Year’ award

Press release from Beacon Center of Tennessee

In the 12th annual Tennessee Pork Report, the Beacon Center revealed that state and local government officials wasted more than $400 million of taxpayer money this past year.

The Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. The Beacon Center allowed Tennesseans to choose the infamous “Pork of the Year” award, and it really came down to the wire. After nearly 400 votes were cast, the “winner” of the award was the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development for their Industrial Machinery Tax Credit. The department took 34% of the vote in the public poll.

In one of the most inefficient instances of corporate welfare in recent years, Tennessee taxpayers paid a whopping $67 million annually for a mere 55 jobs per year from 2011-2014, which adds up to $1.2 million per job. Even if the program’s main goal isn’t to create jobs, it is not the government’s role to help buy equipment for some private companies on the backs of Tennessee taxpayers. The $14 million of tax dollars given to the Opryland Hotel to build a waterpark (that residents are not even allowed to use) came in a close second with nearly 32% of the vote. Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold and the state Jobs4TN Program came in the 3rd and 4th with 19% and 15%, respectively.

The Beacon Center prints the Pork Report every year to make sure state and local governments are held accountable for how ineffectively they spend our tax dollars. The wasteful spending in this report should make Tennesseans’ blood boil. We hope that government officials will use this report to slash wasteful spending in 2018.

The 2017 Pork Report comes from state and local budgets, media reports, state audits, and independent research conducted by Beacon Center staff and scholars.

Note: The full 2017 “Pork Report” is HERE. Excerpt of some highlighted stuff as ‘nominated’ for Pork of the Year:

Jobs4TN: This state-based program has been taking millions of taxpayer dollars for years, spending more than $60 million in 2016- 2017 alone. This money then goes to a select few fortunate companies for their hiring and professional development needs, empowering government to pick winners and losers, and leaving left-out employers across the state to compete with these subsidized businesses.

Opryland Waterpark: The city of Nashville decided to give $14 million to Gaylord Opryland Hotel to construct a waterpark, and while taxpayers are footing the bill, the waterpark is open only to those staying at the hotel.

• Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD): ECD’s Industrial Machinery Tax Credit has doled out an astonishing $1.2 million in taxpayer money…per job. The tax credit has created just 55 total jobs at a cost of nearly $67 million.

• A Sheriff’s E-Cigarette Inmate Scheme: Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold profiteered off a captive audience of local inmates who were sold e-cigarettes from Arnold’s company—earning him and his wife nearly $75,000 over the course of their scheme, which was later exposed by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

Note: Arnold pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced to four years in prison. Randy Boyd, who resigned as ECD commissioner earlier this year, is running for governor.

Black appointed to House-Senate conference committee on tax legislation

Press release from U.S. House Budget Committee

Washington, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a motion to go to conference with the Senate in order to deliver tax reform for the first time in more than three decades. Chairman Black has been appointed by Speaker Paul Ryan to serve on the conference committee.

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Haslam: No budget retaliation against UT for outsourcing rejection; higher ed seeks $102M new funding

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that his administration won’t retaliate against several University of Tennessee campuses that opted against his effort to privatize facilities management services at higher education institutions, reports the Associated Press.

During budget hearings, Haslam said he’s disappointed with how the process played out, but his administration won’t give less money to higher education because of choices that were left up to each campus.

… “There’s no recrimination from us, in my role as governor, anybody else’s role,” Haslam said. “We meant what we said. This was a tool to use if you found it to be to your benefit.”

The Health Science Center in Memphis is the only UT campus to opt in, but officials there only intend to have the company take over mechanical services that are already outsourced through a consortium with the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College.

And The Tennessean has this quote from the governor on the reasons behind outsourcing rejection: “I understand they are subject to the politics of the governor’s office, legislature and campus workers’ union and all sorts of people, but great universities live in the midst of that and work past it.” 

More on the higher education budget hearing from the Times Free Press:

Beginning next fall, new graduates of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology or similar technical programs offering certificates and degrees from state community colleges will come with an eye-catching “warranty” for prospective employers.

If companies can demonstrate the graduates they hire aren’t up to snuff, “we’ll take them back and train them for free,” Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings told Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday.

Replied Haslam: “I love the idea. … That’s accountability at its finest.”

… Meanwhile, Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mike Krause told the governor he is asking the THEC board to approve holding tuition and fee increases between 0 and 3 percent during the 2018-2019 academic year for the University of Tennessee System, the Board of Regents and six independently governed public universities.

Haslam has made it a priority in the last three years to boost state spending for higher education, reversing a decades-long trend in Tennessee and most states where public higher education has been forced to rely on large tuition and fee increases to make up higher operational costs.

This year, the UT system is seeking a total of $25.94 million in general government dollars for its campuses, which include the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Board of Regents is asking for $23.84 million, while the locally governed six universities, including Tennessee Tech, are seeking $24.49 million.

The total higher ed request is $102.51 million, which includes various state-administered programs.

McQueen seeks $73 million increase in state education budget, not counting anticipated teacher pay raise

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen wants a third consecutive annual teacher pay raise included in the state budget next year for and new funding to help local school districts pay for Tennessee’s required but unfunded intervention program aimed at keeping struggling students from falling through the cracks, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

McQueen presented her wish list to the governor during budget hearings Tuesday at the State Capitol.

Tennessee is projecting a slowdown in the growth of tax revenue next fiscal year — about $350 million compared to $1 billion this year — but Haslam says that investing in teacher pay continues to be a priority of his two-term administration.

“We want to continue to fund teacher salaries the best we can,” he said following Tuesday’s budget presentations.

McQueen offered up $73 million in specific requests, the bulk of which would cover growth and inflationary costs associated with the state’s funding formula known as the Basic Education Program, or BEP.  The list also includes $10 million for school improvement grants for “priority schools” in the state’s bottom 5 percent, another $6 million to help charter schools pay for facilities for a second year in a row, and almost $4.5 million for the state’s reading initiative in its third year.

But she did not attach dollar amounts for her big-ticket requests like teacher pay and the unfunded program known as Response to Instruction and Intervention, or RTI. She told reporters later that her department will pound out those important details with Haslam’s administration during the months ahead before the governor presents his final spending proposal to lawmakers in February.

State budget hearing notes: Talk of cuts and needs for new spending

As he began hearings on developing a state budget for the coming year, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that some departments and agencies may have to make cuts, reports WPLN. At the same time, other media outlets report there were requests from some department for increased spending.

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Haslam starts budget hearings today after asking recommendations for 2.5 percent cuts

Gov. Bill Haslam begins budget hearings for all major departments and agencies of state government’s executive branch today and they continue through Thursday. As usual under Haslam, each department has been asked to identify where it would implement budget cuts if necessary.

For the coming 2018-19 fiscal year, which will be the final budget prepared by the term-limited governor, the departments and agencies have been asked to identify potential cuts totaling 2.5 percent of discretionary base appropriations. Typically in the past, the actual cuts have been far less than the suggested target figure and the state has enjoyed large surpluses in revenue for the past few years.

As reported in a recent issue of The Tennessee Journal, Finance Commissioner Larry Martin requested cuts of 2%, but the aggregate reduction wound up being 0.7%. Two years earlier, the aggregate cut came to 3.6% after a 7% cut-identifying exercise.

The schedule of hearings, starting with the Department of Children’s Services Monday morning and continuing until the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services on Thursday afternoon, is HERE.

There will also be live video streaming of the hearings HERE and each department’s slide show presentation will be posted at the same website after the presentation, according to the governor’s office.

TN September tax collections $58.8M over estimates

News release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s revenues exceeded budgeted estimates for the second month of the state’s fiscal year.  Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today reported that overall September revenues were $1.4 billion, which is $48.3 million more than September of last year and $58.8 million more than the budgeted estimate. The growth rate for September was 3.68%.

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Black prepares to step down as budget chair — but won’t say when

Having finally shepherded the fiscal 2018 budget resolution through the House, U.S. Rep. Diane Black is now preparing to give up her gavel as chair of the House Budget Committee after 10 months in the position to focus on her run for governor, reports Roll Call.

Black still won’t put a timeline on her departure date — including whether she will stick it out through conference negotiations with the Senate.

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Regents push hiring of 100 new ‘success coaches’

The state Board of Regents wants $7.1 million to hire 100 new student counselors – or “success coaches” — at Tennessee’s community colleges and technical centers, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

It’s the most expensive of four “priorities” for new money established at a board meeting next week, totaling $14.1 million. Those items are in addition to requests for new capital project spending – the top priority there being a $17.7 million technology building at Columbia State Community College’s Williamson County Campus.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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