‘Believe in better’
Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 11:12 am
Nashville – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam Monday night delivered his 2012 State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly in which he shared his vision for the state and called upon those watching and listening to “believe in better.”
During his speech, the governor emphasized the importance of Tennessee job growth, a continued focus on improving education, public safety, a more customer-focused, efficient and effective state government and keeping taxes low. Haslam also outlined his Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget proposal, which reflects his priorities and includes strategic investments, necessary reductions and savings for the future. Highlights of the budget include:
• Restoration of more than $100 million of the $160 million “core services” funding that was designated two years ago to be cut such as:
* The Coordinated School Health program;
* Extended teacher contracts;
* Alcohol and abuse treatment programs;
* Juvenile justice grants;
* Diabetes prevention;
* And matching dollars for state employee 401k programs.
• Full funding for the Basic Education Program.
• Nearly $264 million to fund long-deferred capital outlay projects in higher education including:
* A new science building at Middle Tennessee State University;
* A science lab at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville;
* A new patient diagnostic center at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis;
* And planning money for new buildings at Nashville State Community College, Northeast State Community College, the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.
• A 2.5 percent pay increase for state employees.
• $50 million to the Rainy Day Fund bringing it up to $356 million.
• A continued commitment to the West Tennessee Megasite with $25 million.
• More than $23 million to fund a new veterans home in Bradley County.
The budget also includes funding for the governor’s legislative proposals announced earlier in the month that include:
• Tougher sentences for certain gang-related crimes and for gun possession by those with prior violent felony convictions along with mandatory incarceration for repeat domestic violence offenders;
• Raising the exemption level on the estate tax in Tennessee from $1 million to $1.25 million to lower the tax burden on family farmers and family business owners;
• And lowering the state portion of the sales tax on food from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent with a goal of lowering it to 5 percent during the next three years.
The complete text of the governor’s speech is available at www.tn.gov/StateoftheState.