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State Revenues Returning to ‘07 Levels, Haslam Lays Out Budget

Gov. Bill Haslam said the budget he’ll pitch to legislators Monday evening is one that reflects the state’s priorities “with strategic investments, painful but necessary cuts and some savings for the future.”

The governor will reveal his budget proposal for the coming year tonight in his second State of the State address before a joint session of the state’s General Assembly.

In a preview of his address Monday morning, Haslam told reporters that increased flexibility in the budget-planning process due to “stronger than anticipated revenue” was balanced by $160 million in one-time federal money leaving the budget. While the state had more revenue to work with than the administration had expected, Haslam said the amount of money coming in is just now beginning to return to where it was in 2007.

Among the budget priorities highlighted by the governor were the restoration of a number of core services that had been cut in the previous budget and a continued effort to build up the rainy day fund. He also called attention to tax cuts he has proposed to the state’s grocery and estate taxes and said he will propose a pay increase for state employees. However, he did reiterate his opposition to across-the-board raises.

“I want to emphasize, I don’t think giving nominal, across-the-board raises is the best way in the long run to recruit, retain and reward great employees,” he said.

The governor has often compared his vision of an ideal government to that of a successful business and forecast a similar message for tonight’s address.

“What you’re going to hear from me tonight is this: State government’s role is to provide the very best service we can at the very lowest price for our citizens,” he said.

Follow @TNReport and #TNSotS on Twitter for live updates during the governor’s State of the State address, beginning at 6 p.m. tonight.