Haslam sees more state budget-cutting in ‘the foreseeable future’

Gov. Bill Haslam sees budget cutting for Tennessee in the foreseeable future, but never an increase in the sales tax.

So reports the Chattanooga TFP:

“You’ll never hear me proposing raising the sales tax,” Haslam said last week during a Times Free Press interview in his state Capitol office.

… Haslam acknowledged, not increasing the tax will keep pressure on his administration and the Republican-led Legislature to continue making cuts that some fear have already gone too far.

While not conceding excessive program cuts, Haslam said, “we haven’t suspended any law of economics here.”

“If we have the biggest items in our budget increase faster than revenue increases — that basically being health care and education, which is where we spend most of our money … you’ve got a problem.”

Still, the governor said, “our answer has been to continuously find ways to shave state government, which we have done fairly effectively. Every year state departments have probably been cut in the 2 or 3 percent range, which is harder than it sounds.

“I think that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future. … And then we’re basically, obviously, hoping the economy continues to grow here.”

…The state has cut its budget again and again, starting with the 2008 Great Recession. Bredesen started reducing budgeted employee positions and Haslam has continued the practice. From FY 2010 to the current FY 2015, the number of full-time general government positions shrank by 8 percent, going from 44,897 to 41,275, according to state budget documents.

State government is getting “awfully lean,” Fitzhugh said. “Corrections and the Department of Children’s Services are getting where we can’t provide the basic services.”

…”It [sales tax reliance] definitely leaves you limited options,” Haslam said during the interview. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve been concerned when people have proposed cutting other taxes. It’s one of the reasons I’ve expressed that we need to think long and hard about that. Because we do have a very narrow revenue base in Tennessee.”