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Senate Democrats Suggest Using TN Rainy Day Fund to Offset Sequester Cuts

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; February 27, 2013:

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.”

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Press Releases

Harwell’s End-of-Session Recap

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, Posted the Following Letter on Facebook, June 3, 2011:

The first session of the 107th General Assembly adjourned late Saturday night, May 21st, after we aggressively worked the last several days to finish our business. We have a long list of accomplishments to point to, proving that it does matter who governs.

Governor Bill Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and I were united in our belief that in order to make government sustainable, we had to transform the way we did business. We made significant progress this year reducing the size of government, paving the way for job creation, and reforming education.

In addition, we adjourned earlier than we have in the past couple of decades. Compared to last year, our early adjournment saved taxpayers nearly half a million dollars in legislative operational expenses. We have shown that we take the responsibility of governing very seriously, and we will stay true to our principles as we do so.

Our top priority was a balanced budget with no new taxes or tax increases. This year’s budget is $1.2 billion less than last year’s. This includes $82.2 million in specific recurring reductions. The budget also fully funds education, and tucks money away in the Rainy Day Fund for the first time in three years, raising it to $327.7 million.

We had many accomplishments this year, including but not limited to the following:

  • Tort reform – Republicans have also fought for years to see passage of comprehensive tort reform legislation, and this year we were successful in passing a bill that will pave the way for jobs in Tennessee. This legislation will create an environment of predictability and certainty for businesses as they look to expand.
  • Tenure Reform – Our goal is to make sure our teachers are equipped with the best tools possible to educate Tennessee students. We want an effective teacher in front of every classroom, and we want those who are excelling to be rewarded. This proposal is absolutely key to education reform.
  • Charter Schools – Charter schools have a proven track record in Tennessee, and I am delighted that we are giving this opportunity to even more students. Every student in the state of Tennessee deserves the very best we have to offer in education, and charter schools play a huge role in reaching that goal.
  • Collaborative Conferencing – The legislature also acted on a bill that repealed the Education Professional Negotiations Act and moved to a collaborative bargaining process that will open a direct line of communication between teachers, administrators and school boards.
  • Reduction of Meth Amphetamines – We are always trying to stay one step ahead of those who manufacture meth, which is destroying our communities. Utilizing this tracking system will curb the ability of criminals to obtain key ingredients for meth, while not increasing the burden to consumers who need pseudoephedrine.
  • Election Integrity – To ensure the integrity of our elections, the legislature passed a bill to require photo identification to vote. This measure will reduce voter fraud, and make every vote count.
  • SJR 127 – The constitutional amendment will restore the right of Tennesseans to repeal or enact laws governing abortions within federal limits through their elected representatives.
  • E-Verify – This bill helps to ensure that those working in Tennessee are here legally. Illegal immigration has a large financial impact on taxpayers, and this legislation will address this problem.
  • Elimination of a dozen subcommittees – The principles of a limited and more efficient government were a priority this year. To that end, I eliminated a dozen subcommittees that I felt were duplicitous, a reform that helped us to work more efficiently.
  • Elimination of redundant committees – In times of economic hardship, taxpayers demand and deserve state government to be streamlined. To that end, we eliminated 11 “oversight” committees that duplicated the work of standing committees, saving taxpayer dollars.

We started this year with a Republican governor, and strong majorities in both chambers–for the first time in the history of our state. We set forth ambitious proposals for job creation and better schools, and due to the hard work of each state representative, we have done that. This was a very successful year.

As always, I appreciate your support. It was an honor to serve as Speaker of the House, and experience that was both humbling and rewarding. Thank you for placing your trust in me, and let me know if I can ever do anything to assist you.

Sincerely,

Beth