Haslam Adds Spending to Budget Plan, Cuts Deal with TSEA

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday a compromise with the Tennessee State Employees Association on civil service reform legislation and plans to add about $28 million in spending to his proposed state budget for the coming year.
The governor’s proposed amendment to the state budget calls for increasing fees paid to local governments for housing prisoners in county jails, in part to reduce complaints about an administration bill to imposing longer sentences for repeat domestic violence offenders. Some local governments had protested what the called an “unfunded mandate” from the state, since they will have to cover the costs of keeping jailed offenders longer.
The increase in prisoner payments by $2 per day will cost the state an estimated $4 million per year. The increase in domestic violence sentences is projected to cost local governments collectively about $8 million per year.
Other changes in the$30.2 billion budget plan from the original version submitted in February include:
-The governor’s proposal to reduce the state sales tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent is revised to set the new rate at 5.25 percent next year. Under the Haslam plan, the rate would then fall to 5 percent in the following year. The change from 5.3 to 5.25 percent costs the state an estimated $3.3 million in lost revenue while saving consumer another nickel on a $100 grocery bill, or a total of 25 cents.

-Plans to eliminate about $5.5 million in funding for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities were dropped. That includes $1 million for continuing “family support services.”
-Restoration of several other previously-planned cuts in social programs, including $3.9 million for Health Start and Child Health and Development Programs; $3 million for family resource centers statewide; $1.4 million for mental health “peer support centers; $375,000 for a poison control center; $250,000 for child advocacy centers; and $250,000 to a mentoring program for children of prison inmates that is operated by Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations.
-$5 million for Tennessee career centers, dealing with costs that had been provided by federal funding.
-$1 million for land acquisition at Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville.
Haslam said he had been flooded with more than $600 million in requests for new spending while only about $28 million to $30 million was available – thanks to state revenue collections continuing to run ahead of expectations for the past two months.
“For every one yes, we had abut 30 no’s,” he said.
The deal with the Tennessee State Employees Association came after a round of weekend negotiations between administration officials and the TSEA officials. The two sides agreed to amendments that will be presented to a House committee on Tuesday and, with their adoption, TSEA will support the civil service bill (HB2384)
“We got to the point where we can support the legislation,” said TSEA spokesman Chris Dauphin.
Haslam said that about 20 changes to the bill as originally introduced have already been made, but those and the additional revisions will still leave intact his goal of streamline promoting state employees and eliminating seniority as the primary factor in decisions.
Among the changes negotiated over the weekend:
-The TSEA and other employee groups will be ormally consulted by administration officials as they develop an evaluation system for employees.
-The 2.5 percent raise in Haslam’s budget for the coming year will apply across-the-board with no exceptions. TSEA last year complained that Haslam did not provide a 1.6 percent raise to all employees, excluding those that had been disciplined.
-Current law says that when the state upgrades the salary classification for a job position, those holding the position get the raise. The original bill eliminated that provision. The compromise provides an employee in such a case will be paid at least the minimum salary for the job position under the re-classified pay scale.
-The original bill provided employees only 30 days notice when their jobs are abolished. A change will give provide 60 days notice until Jan. 1, 2013, when the 30-day notice will kick in.

Note: Here’s the governor’s handout on the budget amendment:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today rolled out his proposal to revise the FY 2012-2013 budget to reflect new estimates on increased state revenues.
The supplemental appropriations amendment to SB 3768/HB 3835 will include funding that was not part of the budget the governor presented in January, which was based on earlier revenue projections.
“It is state government’s job to provide services that citizens can’t get on their own,” Haslam said. “Our budget proposal earlier this year reflected a thoughtful and strategic process to allocate taxpayer dollars to serve Tennesseans in the most customer-focused, efficient and effective way possible.
“This budget amendment continues that focus by making targeted investments in the short term that allow us to plan for a more comprehensive approach to our budget decisions in the long term. I am pleased that we’re able to restore funding for programs important to Tennesseans. We will continue to evaluate all of our funding priorities in the context of the broad picture of our state’s needs.”
Notable funding priorities in the governor’s budget amendment include:
· $3.3 million to reduce the sales tax on food to from the current rate of 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent, which is lower than the governor’s original proposal to reduce it to 5.3 percent;
· $4 million to increase the daily per diem payment to local jails by $2 from $35 to $37;
· $1.4 million for Mental Health peer support centers across the state;
· $1 million for continued statewide family support services through the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in addition to $4.5 million of restoration in the initial budget proposal;
· $300,000 for maintenance of the West Tennessee River Basin Authority;
· $3 million to fund family resource centers across the state;
· $3.9 million to fund Healthy Start and Child Health and Development programs across the state;
· $250,000 for child advocacy centers in Tennessee;
· $250,000 to support the Amachi mentoring program for children of inmates through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization;
· $375,000 to fund a poison control center that provides statewide services;
· $5 million for Tennessee career centers to address the past practice of funding annual operating expenses with non-recurring federal dollars;
· $122,000 to fund legislation that requires unemployment recipients to verify their job search efforts;
· $115,500 to fund an online system to send businesses unemployment insurance notices electronically and to allow employers to submit relevant information electronically;
· And $1 million for land acquisition and maintenance efforts at Radnor Lake state park in Nashville.
Haslam’s original budget proposal restored more than $100 million of a total of $160 million in cuts to “core services” first identified as reductions in the FY 2010-2011 budget but delayed until this year due to the use of one-time federal money.
This budget amendment will include an additional $10 million of funding dedicated directly to further restoring those cuts to core services.

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