A Note from the Capitol

A Note from the Capitol

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:00 pm

Over the past several weeks, we have been holding budget hearings in Nashville to give each of our state departments an opportunity to present budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year.  These public hearings are an important first step in the state’s budgeting process.
For the third year in a row, we’ve asked our state agencies to hold the line on spending and to include potential cuts to their budgets. An ongoing commitment to fiscal restraint is what you, Tennessee taxpayers, expect and what you deserve.
As a result of our past two conservative budgets, we’ve been able to cut taxes including: lowering the state portion of the sales tax on food; phasing out the estate tax; and eliminating the gift tax. 
We’ve also been able to make strategic investments including funding several overdue capital projects on our college campuses.  Our administration remains committed to investing in education and will be intentional about Higher Education funding in this year’s budget.  As you’ve probably heard me say many times before, education is crucial to attracting and growing Tennessee jobs.
In Tennessee, revenue collections continue to exceed expectations.  As more money comes in, there is often a rush to spend those dollars.  But in working with the Legislature, we’ve been careful to hold back the reins on additional spending.  I believe it is our job to provide the very best service to Tennessee taxpayers at the lowest cost, and we take that job seriously.
Last month I traveled to New York with the Speaker of the House, State Comptroller, State Treasurer and Secretary of State to meet with the three major bond-rating agencies to report to them on how we’re managing the state, which impacts the ratings they give us.  The number one question each agency asked was whether Tennessee is prepared and well-equipped to manage the state’s budget and debt obligations with less funding out of Washington, D.C.  
Tennessee is prepared.  Our departments have been putting plans in place since last year to prepare for less funding out of Washington.  It is long overdue that the federal government addresses the national debt and spending, and we’ll be ready.
Tennessee has a good story to tell.  Barron’s Magazine recently ranked Tennessee the third best-managed state in the country. CNBC lists us second for the lowest cost of living and among the top states for infrastructure and transportation, and we are consistently ranked among the lowest for debt per capita.
We don’t take these things for granted.  With the conclusion of the budget hearings, we’ll begin the process of putting the budget together. When we present the budget in 2013, you can expect that it will reflect our priorities of growing Tennessee jobs, improving education and making state government more efficient and effective.
Published in The WCP 11.13.12

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