Ramsey’s Office: GOP Budget Plan Not Yet Ready

Senate Republicans who say they want government to live within its means, and at the same time oppose new or higher taxes, are backing off assurances they made last week that they’ll release fresh budget-cutting proposals this week.

GOP lawmakers may need a few more days before pitching alternatives to the tax hikes favored by the governor and Capitol Hill Democrats, according Lance Frizzell, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s spokesman.

Frizzell said Monday the GOP caucus probably won’t present any concrete spending-reduction strategies for avoiding tax increases until Gov. Phil Bredesen releases a series of budget bills.

Frizzell told TNReport that lawmakers are waiting to see Gov. Phil Bredesen’s omnibus bill — which addresses changing certain codes in order to pass a budget — and a so-called “technical corrections” bill that details his proposed tax increases or methods for closing other loopholes.

The technical corrections bill is out, according to the governor’s office. That bill, SB3901, is public, but amendments have not been added to that bill yet, according to the state’s legislative website.

“Everything we have proposed is either in the budget or has been discussed at length with the legislative leadership,” Lydia Lenker, Bredesen’s spokeswoman, said in an email.

Typically, the omnibus bill isn’t filed by this point in the legislative session, said a Department of Finance and Administration spokeswoman, who added that this year’s bill won’t be introduced until the Bredesen administration fully crunches the revenue projections it received from the State Funding Board.

Frizzell said Republicans may not propose their own version of a budget package until later this week or possibly the week after.

Lawmakers originally planned to vote on a budget by the end of April. Officials now say they expect to work through much of May hammering out a spending and revenue plan agreement.

Bredesen said the budget he proposed back in February needs at least another $105 million in additional funding or new cuts, since state revenue collections are failing to meet predictions.

In order to generate $85 million so state government doesn’t have to rein in spending any more than he’s already proposed, Bredesen has suggested raising the rate at which big-ticket purchases — single items that ring up for $3,200 or more — are taxed.

But Senate Republicans have denounced that idea. They argue that a tax increase right now would further stress Tennessee’s distressed economy. So far, however, GOP lawmakers have refused to offer specific cuts to government spending that they prefer instead of tax increases.

Bredesen, who has less than a year left in office, has said he is open to compromises, but will not support reductions to government education funding, including Pre-K programs.

Frizzell said GOP leaders may run their budget ideas past Bredesen at their weekly breakfast meet-up on Wednesday.