Tennessee budget good compared to other states, according to Bredesen
Posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 6:07 am
By LUCAS JOHNSON II
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said Monday that the state’s spending plan is in good shape compared to other states that are struggling financially.
The Democratic governor said many states were depending on FMAP money, which Congress has yet to approve and whose future is uncertain since the legislation stalled this month. FMAPs, or Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, are used in determining the amount of federal matching funds for certain state expenditures.
Tennessee was expecting about $341 million, but had placed the money in a contingency plan, which means the state’s budget won’t be affected if it doesn’t get the funds.
Bredesen signed the state’s nearly $30 billion budget into law last week. It includes $12.8 billion in state dollars and relies on $185 million from the state’s cash reserves instead of new taxes to fill a $150 million shortfall.
“There’s nothing about this budget that’s going to come apart if it’s not there,” Bredesen said of a possible lack of FMAP money.
But he said some states are “just in these impossible situations, where they assumed that they’re getting all the FMAP.”
Sen. Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, agreed.
“A lot of them just flat plugged it in as revenue to their budget,” said McNally, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “That could cause them to redo their budget.”
If Tennessee does get the FMAP money, small businesses and community colleges are among those to receive funding.
“There are things in there that are good things to do,” Bredesen said. “I’d love to do … work on the community colleges, for example. But it’s not something we have to have to complete our budget.”
Bredesen, who’s in his last term, said he’s “tried to smooth the road as much as I can” for the next governor until the economy bounces back.
“I think whoever it is is going to have a tough time for a couple of years,” he said. “But I think when it starts coming back, there’ll be a chance to put money in things that … are important. I hope education, both higher education and K-12, will top those lists.”
Right now, though, state officials are trying to find ways to help the state’s unemployed. Last week, a spending bill that would have extended unemployment benefits failed in the U.S. Senate. The bill’s failure means unemployment benefits will begin phasing out for many still out of work.
Don Ingram, administrator of employment security for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said as of Monday that affects more than 63,000 people across the state.
“That’s a lot of Tennesseans,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 6.29.10