BLOUNTVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is expected talk more about his planned strategic education investments when he visits Northeast State Community College Friday for a 10:30 a.m. speech at the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts.
Haslam, a Republican, delivered his State of the State message to lawmakers on Monday, and his upcoming talk at Northeast State was described by his communications office as a “State of the State follow-up.”
In his message on Monday, Haslam insisted lawmakers must address the rising cost of college tuition.
“We have to make a college education more accessible, and we have to make sure we have quality programs in Tennessee,” Haslam explained. “Only 32 percent of Tennesseans have earned an associates’ degree or higher. That’s not good enough. Our goal is to move the needle so that Tennessee is on track to raise that number to 55 percent by 2025. ...We begin our ‘Drive to 55’ — a strategic initiative to have the best trained workforce in America.”
Haslam also unveiled his $32.6 billion budget proposal, which includes $33.2 million in capital funding for a Northeast State technical education complex that will be directly tied to advanced manufacturing in the region. The project will use $22 million in bond financing.
The 120,000-square-foot complex on Northeast State’s main campus will include business and advanced technologies programs, and teach computer science, business management, automotive technology, and welding and metal fabrication, according to Northeast State. It will house 40 faculty offices, three classrooms, six computer labs and 30 technical labs.
The budget proposal also includes $1.5 million for an East Tennessee State University fine arts classroom, $1.3 million to update ETSU’s elevators and $1.5 million for ETSU lighting replacements.
Total capital outlay improvement requests in the budget proposal totaled $443.2 million.
The requests presented in the proposal as recommendations to lawmakers reflect meeting State Building Commission requirements.
In his spending plan, Haslam called for a 1.5 percent pay raise for state employees; upgrading nearly 200 case manager positions in the Department of Children’s Services; adding $100 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund bringing it to $456 million on June 30, 2014; and cutting the sales tax on food from 5.25 percent to 5 percent.
For more about the proposed Tennessee budget and Haslam’s “State of the State” remarks go to www.tn.gov/stateofthestate.