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VOL. 124 | NO. 119 | Friday, June 19, 2009

Lawmakers OK $29.6B State Budget

By ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE (AP) – The House and Senate agreed late Wednesday on a $29.6 billion Tennessee spending plan and sent the budget measure for the governor’s consideration.

The House voted 85-12 on the measure, while the Senate agreed 32-1. The budget makes about 10 percent in spending cuts, including layoffs of more than 700 state employees.

The plan for the budget year that begins July 1 includes $2.2 billion in federal stimulus money to defray the need for even deeper spending cuts. About $12.1 billion of the spending plan comes from state taxes, while the rest comes from federal sources.

The final Senate vote on the budget measure was held just before midnight, the result of two days of extensive – and sometimes heated – closed-door negotiations among leaders of both parties.

Senate Republicans had earlier proposed deeper budget cuts and rejecting bonds to pay for buildings on state college campuses and bridge projects. But Democrats and a group of House Republicans headed by Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton balked at that approach and fought to restore several of those cuts.

The proposal passed Wednesday includes issuing bonds for all scheduled higher education projects, and staggering bridge bonds into $87 million increments over the next four years. Democrats had previously wanted to bond all $350 million at once.

“With the exception of the staggering of the bonds, we got everything we wanted,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory.

Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville said there are elements of the spending plan he disagrees with, but a compromise was needed.

“I could pick this budget apart, anybody could pick this budget apart, but in the end it’s about the best you can do with the circumstances we’re under,” he said.

House Majority Leader Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol, said the proposal includes stricter spending controls in the event of a worsening economy, but acknowledged that the budget includes more bonds than he would have preferred.

“It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a responsible plan in the end,” he said.

Rep. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, was among 12 Republicans and one Democrat who cast their votes against the bill.

“Just like the federal government, we’re spending money today and we’re leaving it to our children to pay for it tomorrow,” he said.

The approved budget plan also includes paying for the state’s entire pre-kindergarten program with general fund money.

Senate Republicans had previously suggested drawing $22 million of pre-K funding from lottery reserves, which Democrats, including Gov. Phil Bredesen, had criticized as a first step toward scaling back or ultimately killing the program targeted at 4-year-olds from poor families.


Read HB2392 at http://www.capitol.tn.gov

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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