Bredesen Praises Work Of General Assembly On 'Most Difficult Budget'

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NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen expressed appreciation to the members of the 106th Tennessee General Assembly as they concluded their business and adjourned sine die.

Reflecting on the achievements of the legislative session, Bredesen thanked lawmakers for their work during January’s special session to pass the Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010 and the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010.

“The members of the General Assembly did an extraordinary job in the special session on education, passing landmark legislation that will leave a legacy of educational improvement for our state,” said Bredesen. “These reforms, enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support, will change the way both K-12 and higher education work in Tennessee, and that is going to make a significant difference in the years ahead.”

The $29.9 billion state budget, which includes $12.8 billion in state dollars, represents an overall decrease of 0.3 percent from FY 2009-2010. The budget also draws down $245 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“This was another difficult budget, but we proved once again we can make the tough choices required to manage our state through this difficult economy,” said Bredesen. “Even as we have made some painful cuts, we have made some amazing progress as well. My goal throughout this recession has been to remain true to the principle of the ‘family budget’ that I talked about when I first became Governor, adjusting our expenses to match our income and being very careful about using money from our savings.

“The budget plan I outlined at the beginning of this year was designed to leave the next Governor with a balanced budget that matches recurring expenditures with recurring revenues. The budget passed by the General Assembly will take longer to come back into balance than I had hoped and uses more of our reserves than my original plan. That means the next Legislature will have to manage spending even more closely and look for opportunities to build savings back. However, with revenue growth that’s predicted, I believe the state’s finances will remain in good shape again next year.”

Highlights of the FY 2010-2011 budget include:

• Protecting $3.8 billion in Pre-K – 12 education funding

• Reducing recurring expenditures by more than $450 million

• Maintaining an estimated $429 million in the state’s Rainy Day and TennCare reserve funds

• Preserving funding for the Governor's Office of Children's Care Coordination, which combats infant mortality and coordinates the delivery of health care and other services to children

• Approving a one-time supplemental payment for state workers, provided state revenues continue to improve

• Providing nearly $20 million in tax relief on the purchase of furniture, appliances or building materials as flood victims work to recover from last month’s floods.

The budget includes additional dollars to fund the state’s employee retirement system, appropriations for economic development and job creation initiatives, and the restoration of land and soil conservation funds. The budget also continues certain programs that would have been cut due to the economic conditions. These programs and services are funded for two years through the state’s reserves.

These include:

• Coordinated School Health programs

• Extended contracts for teachers

• Early intervention services in education

• Safety Net grants to community health centers

• Behavioral health programs

• Child health and development programs

When the budget was introduced in February, Bredesen said the spending plan was based on the four-year budget designed last year to guide Tennessee through the economic recession and adhered to the principle of the “family budget.”

“Our approach this year was to employ the same common-sense principle that families across Tennessee are following. We’re adjusting our expenses to match our income, and we’re being careful about keeping our savings account healthy.

“This was the most difficult budget I’ve assembled during my time in public office, and my final budget to present as Governor. I thank the members of the General Assembly for working with me to stabilize the state’s finances when I entered office, and I appreciate their assistance in keeping our state on firm financial footing during these tough economic times. I’m confident our state is on a stable path forward and is positioned to continue meeting the needs of its citizens.”
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