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VOL. 126 | NO. 21 | Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Haslam Begins Public Tennessee Budget Bearings

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

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NASHVILLE (AP) – Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday began his administration's first round of public budget hearings since taking office Jan. 15.

Haslam, who ran on a platform of being best suited for grappling with budget pressures confronting the state, has avoided making any specific proposals on spending cuts so far.

One thing missing from this week's budget hearings is a clear understanding of how deep the budget cuts will have to be. The State Funding Board, which is responsible for setting official revenue projections, has delayed until next week the predictions originally scheduled for December.

The first budget hearing was with the state Health Department. Commissioner Susan Cooper, a holdover from the administration of former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, said the state's diabetes program is one area where the department could find some savings by focusing on "areas of the highest need."

The state currently spends about $7 million a year on the diabetes program, Cooper said officials are discussing ways to reduce that by as much as half. Other potential cuts include eliminating the state's hemophilia program and two primary health care sites. But Cooper argued for holding the line against scheduled cuts in areas such as rapid HIV testing and a breast and cervical cancer testing program.

"The decision will be left to the governor and the Legislature and we're hopeful they'll find a way to keep some of this funding intact," she said.

Cutting the $541,000 spent on the cancer screening program would mean that about 3,600 woman would no longer be eligible for the service, Cooper said. Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes said there's both financial and health benefits to detecting cancer early.

"I'm guessing that with this in the program, in the long run it saves money," he said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 67 10,289
MORTGAGES 0 107 13,434
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 24 2,668
BUILDING PERMITS 0 393 24,700
BANKRUPTCIES 0 60 9,952
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 16 3,752
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 149 14,706
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 31 3,198

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