A note from the state capitol

A note from the state capitol

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 7:00 pm
By: Gov. Bill Haslam

The 108th General Assembly adjourned on April 19, finishing up its business for the first half of the two-year legislative session.  In the spirit of efficient and effective government, this was the earliest the Legislature has adjourned since 1990, which is notable.
I am grateful for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s (R-Blountville) and House Speaker Beth Harwell’s (R-Nashville) leadership and appreciate Majority Leaders Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) for guiding our legislative proposals through the process.
Through working together with the House and Senate, we accomplished a lot this year.
Legislators overwhelmingly approved our balanced budget proposal that includes a continued focus on strategic education investments and continues to cut taxes.
The budget lowers the sales tax on food from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, and it lowers the burden of the Hall income tax on seniors.  We raised the exemption level of the Hall tax for citizens 65 and older from $26,200 to $33,000 for single filers and from $37,000 to $59,000 for joint filers.
We also funded important capital projects in higher education and made investments to address capacity and equipment issues at our technology centers.  We also established WGU-Tennessee, an online competency-based program aimed at helping adults who have some college credits to complete their degrees.  
These investments support our “Drive to 55” initiative to raise the percentage of Tennesseans who have post-secondary degrees from 32 percent – the current rate – to 55 percent by 2025.
While making a number of important investments, we were also intentional about saving for the future by putting $100 million into the state’s Rainy Day Fund.  That will bring it to a total of $456 million by July 1, 2014 as we work to build it back up to pre-recession levels.
In addition to the budget, there were several significant bills that were passed.
We strengthened Tennessee’s already attractive business climate by reforming our outdated worker’s compensation system. The new law simplifies the process and makes it equitable for both the employer and the employee.    
We also beefed up public safety by giving law enforcement officials more tools when it comes to fighting gang violence by clarifying and simplifying the law.
I am proud of what we accomplished together this session and look forward to turning my attention to visiting communities across the state this spring and summer.  I’ll continue to focus on the issues that are important: jobs, education, an efficient and effective state government and public safety.
Feel free to let me know what is on your mind.  I look forward to hearing from you at bill.haslam@tn.gov.

Published in The WCP 5.2.13

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