VOL. 126 | NO. 21 | Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Haslam Begins Public Tennessee Budget Bearings
ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press
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.
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