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Administration ‘Not That Far from Finalizing’ State Budget

The 2012 Legislative session starts in about a month and Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s nearing completion of next year’s estimated $30 billion state spending plan.

The budget, which he will hand off to the Legislature early next year, is expected to include around $400 million in cuts to compensate for increasing costs in major funding areas like education, TennCare and pensions.

“We have a budget that we’re hard at work on and not that far from finalizing,” the governor told the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

The governor beginning his second year said he also expects to present his list of legislative priorities when the General Assembly reconvenes Jan. 10. Haslam said he anticipates typical legislative skirmishing over policy, but doesn’t foresee a single, divisive issue of no-compromise, fight-to-the-finish proportions. “There’s not one big one I see coming,” the governor told reporters.

“I think there will be, obviously, several big issues. I think some of the budget issues, some of them because they involve some difficult cuts will be that,” he said. “There’s an array of things that will come from the Legislature like it does every year.”

He has kept pretty quiet about what issues would make that list, although he spent most of the summer surveying business owners about their needs at a series of roundtable events.

In recapping his first year in office to the chamber audience, he drew a football analogy, saying he and his staff were like a team figuring out which pads to put on while the Legislature was already in formation on the field.

“It’s a good thing to have one year behind you. Being a governor is like almost any other job. There’s a learning curve to it. And as you learn that, you become more prepared to deal with all the things that come in front of you.”

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