Category Archives: budget

Governor hails passage of administration bills

Here is Gov. Bill Haslam’s post-session news release, basically praising legislators for approving bills in his administrative package:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today thanked members of the 109th General Assembly for their work this session and partnership in passing a balanced budget and legislation to continue the state’s focus on education.

“For Tennesseans who don’t follow news out of the State Capitol every day, I think you can take away two main things from this session: education and fiscal strength. We’re making the largest investment in K-12 without a tax increase in Tennessee’s history and reorganizing our higher ed structure in Tennessee in the best way to increase student success and the number of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate,” Haslam said.

“As I spend time with other governors I’m reminded how fortunate we are as a state to be passing a balanced budget this early in the year, to be taking on no new debt, to have no transportation debt, to be in a position to fund priorities and add to our savings account to prepare for uncertain times down the road,” he added.
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March revenue adds $133M to state budget surplus

News release from the Department of Finance and Administration
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in March. Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall March revenues were $1.1 billion, which is $133.0 million more than the state budgeted. March revenues reflect business activity that occurred in February.

“The sales tax growth rate for March was the highest we’ve seen this year, due in part to negative growth in March of last year, and also having one additional day of business activity in the leap year,” Martin said. “Franchise and Excise taxes recorded strong growth for the month and were also significantly higher than the budgeted estimate. All other taxes, taken as a group, exceeded the March estimate as well.

“We continue to be pleased with the overall growth in total taxes this fiscal year, but we also have concerns about slowing global growth and volatile financial markets.”
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TN public universities spent $50M on coach salaries in 2015

Public universities in Tennessee spent $50.7 million on coaches’ salaries in 2015 with the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis leading the way, according to data compiled through a USA TODAY national investigation.

Further, as reported by the Commercial Appeal:

The University of Tennessee, with an operating budget of $126.6 million, spent $18.2 million on salaries, or 14.3 percent of its budget. The University of Memphis, with an operating budget of $43.4 million, spent $11.2 million on salaries, or 25.8 percent of its budget.

Only one of the other seven public universities in the state — Middle Tennessee State — spent more than $5 million on coaching salaries. Middle Tennessee paid its coaches $5.3 million, or 16.8 percent of its budget.

At Tennessee, the athletic program’s spending on coaches salaries hasn’t increased as quickly as it has at Memphis, but the $18,160,180 the Vols spent in 2015 is almost $7 million more than the Tigers’ $11,191,649 and the highest total in the state.

The gap between Tennessee and the other schools in the state is much larger in support staff and administrative compensation. Tennessee spent $20,470,689 in that category in 2015. No other state school spent more than $6,075,765.

Tennessee has been able to spend more in compensation in part because it has had to pay less money in severance packages. Tennessee has spent a total of $21,087,757 on severance pay since 2005 including $7,969,849 in 2013 when football coach Derek Dooley and his staff were fired. Tennessee also spent $3,719,285 in severance in 2011 when basketball coach Bruce Pearl, baseball coach Todd Raleigh and athletic director Mike Hamilton were fired and $6,953,625 in 2009 after football coach Phillip Fulmer was fired.

Legislature approves state budget, cut in Hall income tax

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State lawmakers on Thursday approved a nearly $35 billion annual spending plan for the budget year beginning July 1, sending the measure to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

While hot button topics like social issues and guns tend to draw much attention during the legislative session, passing a balanced budget is the chief responsibility for members of the General Assembly.

The Senate voted 32-1 in favor of the budget, while the House approved it by an 87-7 margin.

Lawmakers had spent much of the week hammering out agreements over smaller budget items, while leaving intact most of the spending proposal Haslam proposed at the start of the session.

One last-minute measure approved by lawmakers is a 17 percent reduction in the state’s Hall tax on income on stocks and bonds. The change is projected to cause a loss of $28 million in state revenues, plus another $15 million from the communities where the tax is collected.
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$35B state budget ready for floor votes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers are planning to vote Thursday on the state’s nearly $35 billion spending plan for the budget year beginning July 1.

While hot button topics like social issues and guns tend to draw much attention during the legislative session, passing a balanced budget is the chief responsibility for members of the General Assembly.

Lawmakers have spent much of this week hammering out agreements over smaller budget items, while leaving intact most of the spending plan Republican Gov. Bill Haslam proposed at the start of the session.

Among the final issues to be worked out is 1 percentage point reduction in the Hall tax on income on stocks and bonds.

The Senate is expected to vote on the budget on Thursday morning, followed by the House in the afternoon.

Corker on developing GOP budget: ‘It’s a hoax’

Tennessee’s Sen. Bob Corker is quoted in a Politico report on how congressional Republicans are backing away from plans to push their own federal budget plan this year.

The reality lays bare a few critical dynamics. Republicans have undermined one of their core arguments for governing. On key fiscal matters, they have not been able to normalize legislating and hopes for regular order have been dashed. And that Congress can completely forgo a budget without consequence shows that the non-binding process means little, and proves to be just an annoyance for the party in power.

It’s all enough to make some Republicans want to abandon the broken process altogether.

“It’s a hoax. The assumptions that are made are totally unrealistic, there’s no policies behind them to follow up. So I’m in favor of is a total redo of the entire budget process, because it’s such a joke as it is right now,” fumed Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. “It is meaningless relative to our fiscal discipline.”

In 2012, as Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell eyed the majority leader job, he committed to doing a budget “every year” when he got the majority. In 2014 he reiterated plans to pass a budget, which the GOP did last year in a late-night series of votes. All along House Republicans — led by now Speaker Paul Ryan — had been passing their own budgets, often at the risk of being attacked by Democrats.

TDOT issues 3-year, $2B road project list

News release from state Department of Transportation
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer today released TDOT’s annual three year transportation program, featuring approximately $2 billion in infrastructure investments for 79 individual project phases in 42 counties, as well as 15 statewide programs.

The three-year program continues the state’s focus on providing a high quality state transportation network that is safe and reliable and supports Tennessee’s economic development efforts. New federal transportation funding through the FAST Act federal legislation includes a roughly two percent increase for FY 2017 over FY 2016’s funding. The FAST Act also provides some one-time flexibility that allows TDOT to tap into an additional $147 million in federal money.

These increases combined with the $100 million repayment to the highway fund in the Haslam administration’s proposed FY 16-17 budget will give the department a somewhat larger building program in the upcoming fiscal year – an estimated $965 million in FY 2017, compared to $660 million in FY 2016. Continue reading

Haslam’s $30M secret project draws criticism

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A state senator on Tuesday questioned fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to earmark $30 million for an undisclosed economic development project in Tennessee.

Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro cited state money spent on problematic economic development deals, including a shuttered polysilicon plant in Clarksville, a West Tennessee solar farm that still isn’t operational, and a facility to study converting switchgrass to fuel that has been moved to Iowa.

“We continue year after year, and even going back to the prior administration, laying out large chunks of money for what we think might occur,” Ketron said. “And they don’t seem to materialize.”

State Finance Commissioner Larry Martin declined to elaborate on the development prospect other than to describe it as an “exciting project” during a Senate Finance Committee meeting.

Ketron said he was uncomfortable voting for the new project on the basis of state officials saying, “Trust me, it’s going to be good.”
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Haslam earmarks $12.5M to subsidize TV shows

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing to spend $8 million to keep the ABC television show “Nashville” in the Tennessee capital.

The Republican governor’s spending plan also includes $4.5 million to subsidize the CMT network’s “Million Dollar Quartet” miniseries in Memphis.

CMT is adapting the Tony Award-winning musical on the recording sessions featuring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis into an eight-episode drama. The series will focus on the musicians’ rapid rise to fame during a time of political change and social unrest.

The music-oriented drama “Nashville” has been set in Music City since 2012, and officials credit the show for drawing tourists from around the country and world.

Haslam adds spending on roads, TennCare, schools to budget

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing new spending on Tennessee roads, TennCare and schools.

Excerpts of the annual budget amendment released Monday reflect the governor’s priorities for spending savings and revenues exceeding original projections for the budget year beginning July 1.

The plan would direct $12 million to the state’s highway fund on top of the $130 million Haslam had proposed earlier this year. About $42 million of that total would be spent on the transportation needs of cities and counties.

The proposal would also spend $18 million to restore a 1 percent rate cut for TennCare providers, and $9 million to pay for growth in school enrollment.

Haslam is also proposing $147,000 to be spent on a new position within the state’s Office of Open Records Counsel.

Note: The governor’s press release on the budget amendment is below: Continue reading