budget

Trump proposes selling TVA assets; Alexander and Corker say that won’t happen

President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal calls for selling Tennessee Valley Authority’ electric transmission assets to help pay for a new $1.5 trillion infrastructure program, reports Michael Collins.

“The private sector is best suited to own and operate electricity transmission assets,” the administration wrote in the president’s proposed budget. “Eliminating the federal government’s own role in owning and operating transmission assets encourages a more efficient allocation of economic resources and mitigates unnecessary risk to taxpayers.”

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Black skips vote on budget deal; rest of TN delegation split

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, former House Budget Committee chair who is now running for governor, skipped voting on the $400 billion budget that stopped a brief federal government shutdown on Friday. The Tennessee congressional delegation was otherwise split in the voting.

In the Senate’s 72-28 vote, Sen. Lamar Alexander voted yes; Sen. Bob Corker no.

In the House’s 240-186 vote,  Republican Rep. Jimmy Duncan of Knoxville voted no along with Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville. The state’s other Republican congressmen – Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, Scott DesJarlais of South Pittsburg, Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah and David Kustoff of Memphis – voted yes and were joined by Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis.

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Proposal lets legislators challenge fiscal notes; adds 10 staffers to analyze state budget

House Majority Leader Glen Casada and Sen. Ken Yager, who chairs the Fiscal Review Committee and the Senate State and Local Government Committee, have proposed to set up a process allowing legislators to challenge estimates of how much a bill would cost taxpayers if enacted.

Their bill (HB2096) requires Fiscal Review Committee staff to list all sources of information used in a cost estimate, known as  fiscal note, and establishes a formal procedure for a lawmaker to challenge an estimate – including calling state officials involved to testify. It also calls for hiring ten new legislative staffers to help analyze the governor’s budget proposal and prepare amendments for legislators.

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Haslam proposes $30M in bonds to partially cover remaining Megasite expenses

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed state budget for the next fiscal year calls for issuing $30.7 million in bonds to partially cover the extra cost of making the Memphis Megasite “shovel ready.” As WPLN reports, that’s less than half the $80 million that Economic and Community Development officials said is needed.

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Haslam’s ‘State of the State’ press release: reminisces and outline of $37.5B budget

Gov. Bill Haslam prepares to deliver his final State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018 (Photo credit: Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Haslam prepares to deliver his final State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018 (Photo credit: Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – In his final State of the State address to the General Assembly, Gov. Bill Haslam this evening challenged all Tennesseans to lead the nation in creating high-quality jobs, improving the education of our students, and providing the most efficient and effective state government services.

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Haslam: “The message is that we can’t stop now.”

Gov. Bill Haslam gives a preview of his State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Haslam gives a preview of his State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has given this preview of his final State of the State address in a meeting with reporters at the state Capitol on Monday:


I thought I’d give a quick preview of tonight’s State of the State address. As you know it’s my last – eighth and final. I will spend some time looking back over the past seven years.

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December state revenue $171.6M over budget estimate

Press release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin announced today that revenues for December posted higher than expected and exceeded the monthly revenues from the previous year.  State revenues for December were $1.4 billion, which is a growth of 11.34 percent and $139.9 million more than December 2016.

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Comptroller questions TBI spending over budget, using reserves

Press release from state Comptroller’s Office:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a special report examining several aspects of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s fiscal operations, including an analysis of TBI’s budget, the procurement of its Pilatus airplane, staffing, and grants and contracts.

The special report was initiated after Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson) called for an examination of TBI’s budgeting and accounting practices. The General Assembly included language within the 2017 Appropriations Act requiring the review to be complete by January 31, 2018.

The Comptroller’s Office found TBI’s expenditures have exceeded its budgeted estimates since 2014, and TBI has relied on its various reserve funds for its continued operations. These accounts have been greatly diminished as TBI has used these funds. The Comptroller’s Office concluded that TBI and the Department of Finance and Administration should commit to improve communication during the budget process.

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DesJarlais: If earmarks are restored, ‘I can be more of a spokesman for the people’

Even some conservatives – including Tennessee’s U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais — seem open to return to earmarks since President Trump floated the idea, reports The Hill.

But don’t call them earmarks: lawmakers say they’re in favor of “congressionally directed spending.”

In a sign of the changing attitudes on Capitol Hill, conservatives are divided on whether to reverse the earmark ban in place since Republicans took over the House majority after the 2010 midterm elections.

Conservative leaders like House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) reject the idea, warning that allowing lawmakers to carve out spending for projects specifically designed to benefit their districts would undercut Trump’s “drain the swamp” message.

…But even some Freedom Caucus members sound open to a return to earmarks ahead of House Rules Committee hearings next week on whether to revive the practice.

“I don’t know that I’m opposed to it,” Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a Freedom Caucus member, told The Hill. “We’re spending more money than ever and it’s still going out, but it doesn’t seem to come to my district.”

If earmarks were restored, “I can be more of a spokesman for the people in Tennessee who need it,” DesJarlais continued. “There is an overpass in Rutherford County that we need to get funding for. We’ve got things up in Nashville, the Percy Priest Reservoir … so yeah, I would like to have a better voice.

“I don’t know if earmarks is the answer. I’ve never had them, so I don’t know if it’s good or not.”

Other conservatives also expressed openness to allowing earmarks or something similar, saying that ensuring money for specific projects would give the legislative branch more power.

… Trump said at a White House meeting with roughly two dozen lawmakers on Tuesday that Congress should consider allowing earmarks again.

He suggested that doing so would allow Congress to function better, lamenting that the “levels of hatred” among Republicans and Democrats are “out of control.”

“Maybe we should think about it,” Trump said. “Maybe all of you should think about going back to a form of earmarks. You should do it.”

“We have to put better controls because it got a little out of hand, but that brings people together,” Trump added.

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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