Kingsport Times-News: A look at Tennessee Gov. Lee's 1st budget proposal
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A look at Tennessee Gov. Lee's 1st budget proposal

Associated Press • Mar 5, 2019 at 9:21 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee is using his first budget blueprint to call for a voucher-style education plan, raises for teachers, correctional officers and other public workers, economic incentives for new Amazon and Volkswagen projects, a big deposit into state savings, and more.

State Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter on Monday gave reporters details of the governor's $38.55 billion spending plan, a 1.1 percent increase from the current year's budget, ahead of Lee's first State of the State speech that evening. The proposal includes no new long-term debt and makes $42.3 million in recurring cuts, which will cut 37 positions, five of which are currently filled, and won't reduce government services, McWhorter said.

State employees also would be due a 2 percent raise under the plan, McWhorter said.

Here is a look at what is — and isn't — in Lee's first budget, which will next head to the GOP supermajority Legislature.

EDUCATION

— $25.5 million for education savings accounts, a voucher-style initiative that Lee is proposing.

— $71.3 million for teacher pay increases of 2.5 percent, subject to the discretion of local school districts.

— $5 million for support services for the schools performing in the lowest 5 percent.

— $10 million more in recurring and $20 million in nonrecurring grant money for school safety, including funding for additional school resource officers.

— $12 million more to help charter schools buy and improve buildings, double what is currently available.

— $37.5 million in new workforce development money, including funding for Lee's student vocational and technical training push of $25 million in community grants for work-based learning programs and apprenticeships and $4 million for expanded high school dual enrollment.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

— $50 million infrastructure grant for Volkswagen's plans to expand its Chattanooga plant and create 1,000 jobs there as the factory gears up for electric vehicle production beginning in 2022.

— $65 million infrastructure grant to help Amazon with its plans to invest $230 million in setting up an operations hub in Nashville that's expected to create 5,000 jobs.

— $20 million for additional rural broadband expansion; $10.5 million for the Rural Development Fund grant program; and $3 million for the Rural Opportunity Fund loan program.

STATE RESERVES

— $14 million in the current budget year and $224 million in the upcoming budget year to add to the state's rainy day fund, which would take that total savings fund to $1.1 billion. McWhorter said it would set state records for the largest rainy day funding, biggest single deposit and largest percentage of revenues deposited.

OPIOIDS

— $35 million more for opioid-related initiatives, including $3 million more for the Creating Homes Initiative, which would add about 200 more housing opportunities in the first year; and $2.3 million to provide 70 to 80 beds in a Women's Residential Recovery Court.

EMPLOYEE PAY, POSITIONS

— $15.6 million for pay increases for Tennessee's correctional officers, who are among the worst compensated in the country.

— $11.9 million to maintain the $10 per hour wage for Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities direct service providers.

— $2.4 million to fund 40 more probation and parole officers.

WHAT'S NOT IN THERE

— The budget does not plan for the collection of any more Internet sales taxes, for the cost of proposed TennCare work requirements yet-to-be-approved by federal officials; or for hopes that the federal government will allow block grants so Tennessee can overhaul its TennCare program.

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