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Haslam: We Can’t Rush To Spend

Statement from Gov. Bill Haslam, May 16, 2011:

To my fellow Tennesseans:

Today I filed my budget amendment with the Tennessee General Assembly, adjusting next year’s budget proposal to reflect increases in state revenues. More importantly, the amendment continues to reflect the practical, conservative policies I’m committed to and was elected to govern by.

In March, I introduced my administration’s first budget. It was based on early revenue estimates and accounted for the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in one-time money from the federal government that is no longer available to Tennessee.

The initial proposal took into account the “new normal” of government: that we must do more with less, exerting more energy and spending fewer dollars. My administration is transforming how we set priorities and make choices, and in our short time in office, refocusing the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s job growth strategy on existing Tennessee businesses and specific industries is an example of that effort.

The budget proposal made in March projected conservative revenue growth mostly consumed by TennCare, the Basic Education Program (BEP) funding formula and state employee health care.

The proposal included a 2.5 percent average reduction throughout state government but also a 1.6 percent pay increase for state employees – the first such increase in four years. We also proposed restoring $69 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

The budget amendment I filed takes into account the modest revenue growth the state experienced during the last year but stays true to the principles of our March proposal.

There is funding for: disaster relief grants; use of HOPE Lottery scholarships during the summer semester; mental health services; the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis; a state veterans home in Clarksville; payments to the Memphis Regional Medical Center, Nashville General and Jellico Community Hospital; the University of Memphis for operations on the Lambuth University campus in Jackson; smoking cessation assistance; and badly needed building maintenance at state and higher education facilities, among other areas receiving funding in this proposal.

I believe this amendment is a sensible adjustment to my March proposal given the new estimates of state revenues. It reinvests what we can in the areas of education and health care for our most vulnerable neighbors, and as I’ve often said, the experience of governing is not choosing between a good idea and a bad idea but it is choosing between two very good ideas.

When our economy declined, decisions were made to position our great state for recovery as quickly as possible. Money became scarcer and scarcer, and just as families across Tennessee had to do, state leaders found themselves having to choose – often between good ideas.

As our economy comes back and we adjust to the new normal, we must make sure we do not rush to spend but that we are continually mindful in our effort to save, use tax dollars smartly and offer Tennessee taxpayers a government that responds to their needs and reflects their principles.

Regards,

Bill Haslam

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