NASHVILLE – On Thursday, State Representative Stratton Bone (D-Lebanon) vowed to vote against the Senate Republican budget proposal on Tuesday that includes over $140 million in spending cuts to teachers, farmers, and state employees.
"This budget plan offered by Senate Republicans is balanced on the backs of farmers and working families," said Bone. "Tennesseans deserve a balanced budget that works for them, not against them."
On Monday, the Republican majority in the Senate offered a budget amendment putting over $140 million in funding on the chopping block. These include $100 million in cuts to state employees, $34 million in cuts to teacher pay, $6 million in cuts to agriculture investments in farmers, $3.5 million in cuts to public safety and $3.5 million in cuts to tourism.
"Last year we set out on a four year plan to maintain balanced budgets while letting our economy recover and now some Republicans want to change that plan to score political points," said Bone. "Our teachers, our farmers, our state employees deserve better than to be treated like pawns in a political game."
Under their proposal, the Republicans would slash over $6 million that currently goes to farmers. Started in 2005 as a way to help Tennessee’s farmers, the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program makes improvements to Tennessee’s number one industry in the areas of technology development, equipment improvements, and building construction.
"I am a strong supporter of Tennessee farmers, and I know how much they believe in the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program,” said Bone. “It is irresponsible to make cuts to Tennessee’s largest economic industry. Farmers need state government to be on their side and not working against them."
The Senate is expected to take up the Republican budget proposal in the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee early next week.
"The Republican budget proposal shows a complete lack of understanding when it comes to the needs of regular Tennesseans," said Bone. "I hope that Republicans will come to the negotiating table and work with us on a budget that is good for ALL Tennesseans."
Under their proposal, the Republicans would transition over $34 million in recurring dollars in the Career Ladder Program for K-12 teachers to non-recurring, one-time funding. This change would be the program could be terminated as early as next year. The Career Ladder Program is a financial incentive program that rewards high-quality teachers who deliver outstanding service to their classrooms and schools.
"The job of a teacher hasn’t gotten any easier in the last few years, and the last thing we need to be doing is cutting a program designed to encourage teachers to do better,” said Bone. “When Republicans said they were going to put education first, I didn’t know that meant first on the chopping block."
Under their proposal, the Republicans would eliminate the $113 million in one-time, non-recurring funds that were to be used to provide state employees with a one-time, recession adjustment payment. Tennessee’s state employees have not received any pay increase since 2007, and continue to earn well below their private sector counterparts. In addition, the Senate republican plan would also move the employee 401K match of up to $50 from recurring to non-recurring funds. This would put the match program on the fast track to elimination as early as next year.
"Even with no pay raise in three years, and cuts to staffing, our state employees continue to get the job done,” said Bone. “The one-time recession adjustment payment is a small way of saying thank you to them for their hard work and I believe it is something we need to keep in our budget."
Under their proposal, the Republicans would transition from recurring to non-recurring, one-time funding over $1 million in grants to implement meth prevention programs and internet crime prevention. These programs help local governments create drug and Internet task force groups to combat the growing problems of meth addiction and Internet child pornography in rural communities. By paying for these programs with non-recurring funds, Republicans could terminate the programs as early as next year.
"Tennessee families deserve the best when it comes to their safety and these programs give local law enforcement better tools to fight off the ugly problems of drug abuse and Internet child pornography,” said Bone. “It is outrageous to even think of playing politics with programs designed to protect our children.”