NASHVILLE – With looming sequester cuts threatening everything from Head Start programs to our military personnel, leaders in Tennessee urged Gov. Bill Haslam to use the proposed increase to the state’s rainy day fund to weather the storm.
Tennessee has $356 million in its rainy day fund, with another $100 million to be added in this year’s budget. Using that $100 million to fund vital services instead would save Tennesseans from the pain of Washington’s inaction.
“The fact that Washington is acting irresponsibly does not mean we should allow Tennesseans to suffer,” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle said. “If this isn’t a rainy day I don’t know what is. We’re calling on the governor to reduce the impact of these cuts for the neediest of our citizens.”
Leaders across the state are bracing for impact.
Commander Maj. Gen. James C. McConville of the 101st Airborne Division is concerned about what cuts will mean for Fort Campbell.
“I am deeply concerned about the potential impact that these cuts will have on our civilian employees and military families,” Maj. Gen. McConville said in a statement. “We are doing everything that we can to limit the impact on our teammates and family members.”
The cuts will affect more than active military and government employees. Travelers in Tennessee can expect longer lines at airports with fewer TSA agents and flight delays with fewer air traffic controllers. Visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be disappointed to find five campgrounds closed, and the businesses that depend on tourism dollars will feel the pinch.
“Losing $14.8 million in public education funding will be devastating to Tennessee’s children,” said Gera Summerford, TEA president and Sevier County math teacher. “Releasing rainy day funds is Governor Haslam’s opportunity to demonstrate that he has the best interest of Tennessee’s students at heart. We cannot allow our students to be the victims of Washington’s inability to avert this financial crisis.”
Of even greater concern is the funding Tennessee stands to lose for its most vulnerable. The loss of $136,000 for programs that prevent violence against women could mean 500 fewer victims being served. The Meals on Wheels program stands to lose $1 million.
“We could see the elimination of Head Start services for 1,200 children across the state. There are seniors who may stop receiving meals,” state Sen. Lowe Finney said. “What’s worse is that the administration has not presented the legislature with a plan to avoid it.”