budget

Roe doesn’t expect Congress to go along with Trump eliminating ARC

The Appalachian Regional Commission is one of 19 current federal agencies that would be defunded under President Trump’s proposed budget, but Republican Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District says that’s probably not going to happen, reports the Johnson City Press.

The president’s proposal, subtitled “A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” provides increases to defense spending and law enforcement while eliminating the ARC’s $120 million appropriation, $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program — used by rural communities to provide housing, build infrastructure and stimulate job growth — and a slew of other domestic agencies and programs.

… In an emailed statement… Roe, R-Tenn., applauded the Trump budget proposal’s support for national defense and assured the safety of programs benefitting rural Appalachia.

… “In the weeks and months ahead, Congress will decide whether or not to adopt the president’s recommendations. Programs like the Appalachian Regional Commission, which does tremendous good for rural Appalachia, have bipartisan support in Congress and I don’t expect they will be eliminated. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and the president to work toward getting our fiscal house in order and balancing our budget.”

Note: The Atlantic has a list of the 19 defunded agencies, including in its report this observation on eliminating the ARC: Its inclusion is notable, because it serves a region that largely supported Trump, and which he has promised to revive economically.

February state revenue $21.1M above budget projections

News release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in February. Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall February revenues were $846.7 million, which is $28.4 million more than the state received in February 2016 and $21.1 million more than the state budgeted. The overall growth rate for February was 3.48%.

““The state experienced better sales tax revenues than expected for February,” Martin said. “Receipts were in excess of the budgeted estimate. Franchise and Excise taxes recorded negative growth for the month and were also less than budgeted estimates. Nonetheless, the strong sales tax growth pushed total revenues for the month higher than budget expectations.”

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Sen. Douglas Henry, Southern gentleman, dies aged 90

Sen. Douglas S. Henry III, who served longer in the state legislature than anyone in Tennessee history and in doing so gained a reputation as the epitome of a Southern gentleman and a staunch fiscal conservative, died Sunday, aged 90, in his Nashville home.

From The Tennessean:

A product of Belle Meade, Henry was first elected to a House seat in 1954 before being elected to the Senate in 1970 to represent Nashville’s District 21.

The longtime chairman of the Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee, Henry served in the Senate for 44 years, developing a reputation as a guru in state finances. He left the state legislature in 2014, but remained a presence at the state Capitol and continued to draw the respect of current lawmakers.

His death came less than three months after the passing of his wife of 67 years, Loiette “Lolly” Hume Henry. She died in December. Henry had been ailing for weeks, prompting visits in recent days from his closest friends.

Some tributes:

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Big bounce: State revenue $169M over budget estimates in January

News release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee tax revenues were above budgeted estimates for January. Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall January revenues, driven by a very large one-time franchise and excise tax payment, were $1.4 billion. Total revenues were $169.1 million more than the state budgeted and 10.54% more than revenues received in January of last year.

“Adjusting the January recorded revenues for the substantial one-time payment reduces the underlying growth rate for total tax revenues from 10.54% to 1.90%,” Martin said. “Sales tax revenues recorded growth slightly in excess of the budgeted estimates as sales tax growth returned to a now-normal level.”

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Haslam budget laying groundwork for state park privatization beyond Fall Creek Falls?

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed 2017-18 budget includes an unprecedented $58.8 million in capital spending at state parks across Tennessee, leading to speculation that the administration has plans for privatization at three state park that get most of the money, reports the Times-Free Press.

That would follow the pattern set earlier when the 2016-2017  Haslam budget included major funding for Fall Creek Falls state park. Only months after the budget was adopted did the administration announce that the park’s operations would be privatized after the state spends money building a new park inn and other improvements.

“At this time, there are no active plans in place” in regards to further privatization efforts at those three parks, Paris Landing, Pickwick Landing and Henry Horton, said a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokesperson in an email Friday.

Elected leaders from those park areas polled this week — all in Middle or West Tennessee — also said they have not been told if the state plans to pursue privatization at their parks. But each were familiar with the concept after a 2015 attempt to outsource hospitality operations at 11 state parks that failed because of the facilities’ poor conditions.

…(State Sen. John) Stevens’ district includes Henry County’s Paris Landing State Park, which is set to receive $23.07 million for the demolition of its inn and construction of a new inn that would include conference space and a restaurant.

He said he supports rebuilding the inn and is thankful for the administration’s proposed investment, adding that locals are interested in having input in the facility’s design.

“I have spoken to our local chamber and there is support in the community for the new building coupled with concern, privatization being one,” Stevens said.

…Marshall County’s Henry Horton State Park would receive $10.05 million under the proposed budget for the demolition of the inn, visitor center, and restaurant there. The money would also pay for the construction of a new visitor center and restaurant, but not another inn.

…An inn would remain part of Pickwick Landing State Park in Hardin County under the proposed budget. Nearly $12 million would be spent to renovate the current facility, which includes a conference center and restaurant.

Comptroller puts TN school funding calculator online

News release from state Comptroller’s office

Tennessee’s K-12 public schools depend on the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) formula to distribute nearly $4.4 billion in state funding. For years the BEP has been calculated by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) without any way to verify the results. Now, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has created a method to independently calculate and verify the BEP.

The Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability has reconstructed the entire BEP calculation from scratch using input data for student enrollment, unit costs, and other factors.

The Comptroller is also bringing transparency to the BEP formula by making its BEP Calculator publicly available to all Tennesseans. Details and dollar amounts for every school district in Tennessee can now be downloaded from the Comptroller’s website. Users can even create their own scenarios using different inputs – teacher salaries, insurance premiums, etc. – to see how changes impact BEP allocations.

The Comptroller has also created an interactive map where you can easily view of snapshot of essential BEP facts and figures for each of Tennessee’s 141 school districts.

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Haslam budget gives pay raises to teachers, state employees; spends $655 million on building construction & maintenance

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposes spending $37 billion in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which is about 4.8 percent more than in the current fiscal year. The money includes about $18 billion in federal funds.

Here are some of the highlights:

–There’s new money (about $100 million) to cover a 4 percent pay raise for K-12 public school teachers, if spread across the board to all – though school systems can distribute the funds so some get bigger pay raises than others.  Schools would also get an extra $22 million for English language learning programs.

–There’s funding for all state employees (including those in higher education) to get a 3 percent pay raises if handled across the board plus $23 million for “market adjustment” pay raises in some job categories.

–There is $655 million for building construction and maintenance across state government and higher education.

–As announced before, $279 million extra would be spent on highway construction and maintenance with money generated from an increase in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. Another $135 million from revenue overcollections would go to road construction on a one-time basis as a “payback” of money taken from the road fund in previous years.

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Haslam proposes expanded free tuition plan, $37B budget in ‘State of the State’ speech

(Note: Full text of the governor’s speech is HERE.)

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – In his seventh State of the State address to the General Assembly, Gov. Bill Haslam introduced his proposal to make Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer all Tennessee adults without a degree access to community college tuition-free – and at no cost to taxpayers.

If the Tennessee Reconnect Act is approved, Tennessee would become the first state in the nation to offer all citizens – both high school students and adults – the chance to earn a post-secondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees.

“Just as we did with Tennessee Promise, we’re making a clear statement to families: wherever you might fall on life’s path, education beyond high school is critical to the Tennessee we can be,” Haslam said. “At the end of the day, there is no higher potential for providing more opportunity for our citizens than increasing access to high quality education. And the point is, we’re doing it while maintaining discipline and responsibility to the taxpayer – keeping taxes and debt low and saving for when the economy ultimately slows.”

Launched in 2013, the Drive to 55 is the governor’s effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. Currently, Tennessee needs 871,000 post-secondary degrees or certificates to reach 55 percent, but mathematically there’s no way to reach that goal by only serving high school students. There are 900,000 adults in Tennessee that have some college but no degree.

Tennessee adults without a certificate can already attend Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) tuition-free under the Reconnect program, and the governor’s Tennessee Reconnect Act would add community colleges into the program. Click here for information on the Reconnect proposal. (And there’s an ‘infographic’ HERE.)

The governor also unveiled tonight the Tennessee STRONG (Support, Training and Renewing Opportunities for National Guardsmen) Act, establishing a four-year pilot program for eligible members of the Tennessee National Guard to receive a last-dollar tuition reimbursement toward a first-time bachelor’s degree.

The Reconnect and STRONG acts are the final two pieces of NextTennessee, Haslam’s 2017 legislative agenda aimed at building and sustaining economic growth and the state’s competitiveness for the next generation of Tennesseans.

The governor also released his Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget proposal. The $37 billion proposal makes significant investments in teachers, K-12 schools, higher education, state employees, the state’s Rainy Day Fund and the tax cuts included in the governor’s IMPROVE Act. For a second year in a row, and the second year in Tennessee recorded history, the state budget does not take on any new debt.

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State revenue was $150M over estimates in December

News release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee revenues for December exceeded the same month one year ago.  Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin reported today that state revenues for December were $1.2 billion, which is a growth of 11.33% and $125.5 million more than December 2015.

“Total revenues in December were higher than expected due to collections in the sales and corporate tax categories. Recorded revenues in the corporate category for December include a substantial one-time payment,” Martin said. “December sales tax revenues reflect retail activity that occurred in November including ‘Black Friday’ and after-Thanksgiving sales. January’s report will capture consumer spending for the Christmas holiday season. Continue reading

McNally names Watson chair of Senate Finance Committee; Tracy as speaker pro tem; Bailey as Transportation chair

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has appointed Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee – the position McNally held before being elected speaker of the Senate on Tuesday. Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, will, in turn, replace Watson as Senate speaker pro tempore — and Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, will succeed Tracy as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Otherwise, committee chairs remain the same for the 110th General Assembly as they were for the 109th General Assembly when Ron Ramsey did the appointing as speaker.

A chart (pdf) listing Senate committee assignments is available by clicking on this link: senatecommittees110tga

Here’s McNally’s press release on the appointments:

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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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