Democratic leader gives budget alternative
Posted: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 8:01 pm
By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle proposed an alternative budget plan on Tuesday that he hopes will win the support of his Republican counterparts.
While there are some similarities, the proposal is still quite different from a Senate Republican plan revealed last week. The biggest change is that Kyle’s proposal that he gave to the Senate Finance Budget Subcommittee would give state employees a 2 percent bonus, while the Republican plan eliminates that. Kyle’s measure also restores the Career Ladder program for teachers.
As it stands, Kyle said he doesn’t believe an original plan by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen will garner enough votes in either chamber to pass. He said he’s trying to draft legislation that can pass both chambers and is awaiting input from Republicans in hopes of reaching a compromise.
“We’ve been talking for almost three weeks,” said Kyle, of Memphis. “Talk is cheap. Either vote or amend this particular proposal.”
Earlier this week, House Speaker Kent Williams said negotiations with the state Senate could lead to an agreement on Tennessee’s annual spending plan by the end of the week.
Williams, an Elizabethton independent, said the House is seeking to restore cuts to state mental health and children’s services programs and to give state workers a bonus — even if it’s smaller than the 3 percent level originally proposed by Bredesen.
Williams said the House plan would tap the state’s cash reserves more than Senate Republicans want, but would still leave the state with a healthy $400 million contingency fund.
On Tuesday, Williams said the plan presented by Kyle was essentially the House proposal. As for the budget process, he said it would move quicker if lawmakers could keep it from becoming political.
“If you’re running it like a business, you can get it done in a couple hours,” he said. “When politics comes into play, it’s not good.”
Kyle said his proposal would use about $77 million more of the state’s reserves than originally outlined in the governor’s budget.
He said his plan is similar to the Senate Republican proposal in that it leaves out Bredesen’s initiatives to raise money through fee and tax increases. The governor had hoped to plug a $150 million budget gap through a series of revenue measures.
They included eliminating a sales tax cap on big-ticket items, restoring the sales tax on the first $15 of cable bills and increasing annual driver license fees by $2.
Published in The Messenger 5.19.10