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GOP’s Norris on Budget Discussions: Lawmakers ‘Never Allowed Complexity to Outweigh Common Sense’

Press Release from the Senate Republican Caucus, May 21, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, TN), May 21, 2011 — The Tennessee General Assembly passed several major bills on the closing day of the 2011 legislative session, including the state budget, which was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). Norris said the $30.8 billion 2011-12 balanced budget deals with the state’s current budget crunch, while working towards reforming education and making Tennessee’s economy stronger to welcome new jobs to Tennessee.

“I am proud to have carried this budget for the Governor,” said Leader Norris. “It was a complex process, but we never allowed complexity to outweigh common sense. The budget is balanced. Overall spending is reduced. Some taxes have been lowered.”

The budget represents an overall 3.7 percent decrease from the $32 billion budget adopted last year. It maintains essential government services by focusing reductions in administrative areas to minimize any impact felt by Tennessee taxpayers. It continues the commitment to education by fully funding the Basic Education Program, provides Hall Tax relief for seniors, and does not increase taxes on Tennesseans.

“We do more with less. We increase investments in education, law enforcement, health and economic development while reducing the size of state government,” Norris added. “In a year of historic reforms in education, civil justice, and workers’ compensation, this budget sets the stage for unprecedented economic growth and prosperity in Tennessee. The future is bright.”

The budget, which is based on a realistically conservative 3.7 percent revenue growth, includes $82.2 million in specific recurring reductions which are necessary as part of the multi-year budget plan to bring the budget back into balance. The budget legislation contains the following highlights:

  • Supports economic development and the opportunity for nearly $5 billion in new investment and more than 5,000 jobs
  • Fully funds the Basic Education Program
  • Provides a salary increase for state employees, teachers and higher education for the first time in four years
  • For the first time in three years, the state will add to the Rainy Day Fund (which is essentially the state’s savings account) and not reduce the reserves
  • For the first time in three years, the budget is balanced on a recurring to non-recurring basis
  • Fully funds the inflationary costs for TennCare and CoverKids
  • Fully restores the Agriculture Enhancement Program
  • Allocates $71.3 million in state funding to assist with Disaster Relief Grants, as well as $9 million for sales tax relief from disaster-related recovery expenses
  • Provides $1 million for Hall Income Tax relief for eligible seniors 65 years of age and older
  • Allocates money to give HOPE scholars the ability to utilize their scholarships during summer school
  • Provides $100 million in capital outlay funds for higher education capital projects and maintenance
  • Anticipates that additional funding may become available based on money owed to Tennessee for Medicaid overcharge from the federal government, which if received will be used to delay certain reductions in TennCare

“The budget represents a multi-year strategy to lower the size of government by making thoughtful reductions in all areas of state government,” Norris added. “Tennessee is in better economic condition than most states, many of whom are struggling to stay afloat amid huge budget deficits.”

“Overall, our General Assembly has worked cooperatively in a very efficient and effective manner, finished our business on time, and passed a number of major initiatives to help create a business climate to attract new and better paying jobs.”

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