News release from House Democratic Caucus:
Nashville, TN -House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh joined with Democratic members of the House Finance Ways & Means Committee today in unveiling an alternative to the FY ’12-’13 budget put forward by the Administration. With over $200,000,000 in excess revenue not being accounted for in the Administration’s budget, Democrats believe there is a need for a more measured approach.
“At a time when working families are still hurting and the state is collecting revenue far and beyond what last year’s estimates indicated, it’s irresponsible to leave this money out of the budget,” said Fitzhugh. “A far better option, I think, is to use these funds for the benefit of all Tennesseans, by avoiding unnecessary cuts and making smart investments in our future”
The alternative budget provides another .25 percent cut to the grocery tax, with a plan to reduce it by a full one percent over the next four years. $30,000,000 is appropriated to TSAA grants. A two percent cut to higher education is restored; reducing from six percent to three percent the amount colleges and universities must increase tuition in the 2012-2013 school year. In addition to avoiding cuts to K-12 education, the plan calls for a one-time investment in community colleges and technology centers to expand programming in emerging fields. The alternative plan also avoids cuts to programs that help the elderly and disabled stay in their homes, by fully funding the CHOICES program and Family Support Services.
“We have spent this whole session talking a lot about tax cuts, jobs and education. The budget is our opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. Our plan does that,” said Fitzhugh.
The alternative budget is balanced; it does not use all the excess revenue available and maintains a $50,000,000 contribution to the state’s rainy day fund. The plan also calls for using cash in lieu of proposed bonds on capital outlay projects, saving taxpayers 30 percent to 40 percent in interest rates over the life of the bonds.
“Our plan balances the budget, while avoiding unnecessary cuts and investing in our future. This is a smart approach that leaves the people of Tennessee better off in the long run. It’s just the right thing to do.”
A list of bullet points is below.
·Provisions of Democratic Alternative Budget Proposal:
Reduces the “Grocery Tax” by an additional .25% in FY ’12-13, with language in place to reduce it by a full 1% over the next four years, helping working families make ends meet. ($22,069,100)
· Uses one-time money to allow community colleges and technology centers to update their equipment, enroll more students and increase programming in emerging fields like nursing, welding, HVAC and electronics, resulting in a more highly-trained workforce that can attract 21st century jobs. ($19,000,000)
· Uses $30,000,000 for TSAA grants to help poor and underprivileged students afford college.
· Restores cuts to K-12 education, including funds for internet connectivity (a $3-$1 federal match program) which connects our schools with the high-bandwidth internet needed to meet new online testing requirements for TCAP and teacher evaluations ($15,140,700)
· Restores the 2% cut to higher education, which will reduce expected tuition increases from 6% or more to 3%. ($16,059,400)
· Restores funding for the TennCare Choices Program Home and Community Based Services–a program that provides help with day-to-day activities for the elderly and those with severe disabilities, allowing them the dignity of staying in their home, rather than an institution. ($15,934,500)
· Restores full funding for Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Family Support Services, which allows families with these disabilities to remain together in there homes by providing day care services, home modifications, equipment, supplies, personal assistance, transportation, homemaker services, housing costs, health-related needs, nursing and counseling. ($4,281,500)
· Uses cash in lieu of proposed bonds to reduce the state’s borrowing by 30-40%, saving tax-payers hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments. ($9,000,000-$13,000,000)