budget

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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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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