Better Financial Times Are Ahead: Rep. Bone

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NASHVILLE – On Monday, State Representative Stratton Bone (D-Lebanon) and fellow members of the General Assembly heard Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen deliver his final State of the State Address and were presented with copies of the governor’s proposed budget.

“Tennessee is still not out of the woods economically, but we’re continuing to see signs that better financial times are ahead,” Bone said. “We must keep our state’s financial house in order, but at the same time we must find new ways to bring more jobs to Tennessee and I believe we heard that same philosophy from Governor Bredesen.”

In his final State of the State speech, Governor Bredesen delivered a hopeful yet concerned outlook for Tennessee’s financial future. Specific details addressed in the speech included:

Even with the tough cuts and revenues shortfalls of the past year, Tennessee will have about $850 million in Rainy Day and TennCare reserve funds at the end of the current fiscal year.

$202 million of those reserves are expected to be needed to fill in the gap in the governor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Governor Bredesen’s proposed budget once again fully funds the BEP, Tennessee’s Basic Education Program for K-12 schools.

Having worked for three consecutive years without any pay increase, including cost-of-living increases, the governor’s budget includes a 3% bonus for state employees and no cuts to the 401K match program.

For 2011-2012, TennCare spending is expected to nearly equal K-12 education spending, a significant improvement compared to 2004 when TennCare spending was nearly 2.5 times more than K-12 education.

Cuts of up to 9-percent to administrative departments have been proposed again this year in order to balance the budget. However, previous proposed cuts to the Department of Correction that would have potentially closed two prisons in Tennessee are no longer on the table.

A downsize in workforce has been proposed, but the number of potential layoffs has been reduced to just over 1,000 jobs. Of those potential cuts, 314 positions are projected to be maintained for the next two years and reevaluated at the end of that two-year period.

A number of programs with proposed cuts have been protected, including: the Coordinated School Health Program, Safety Net Grants to the Federally Qualified Health Centers, Diabetes Prevention Program, Community Mental Health Recovery Services, Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, Juvenile Justice Prevention Grants, Family Support Services Program and the Human Resource Agencies and Community Action Agencies.

“My priorities this year are simple: find ways to create more jobs to put people back to work, provide better educational opportunities for our kids, and produce a balanced budget that maintains the services we need without wasteful spending,” Bone said. “The budget proposed by Governor Bredesen looks to be in line with those priorities and I look forward to working with him in the coming months to pass a budget that all Tennesseans can be proud of.”

House Budget hearings are set to begin next week and last throughout the next several weeks. A final vote on the budget could come as early as April.
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