Lawmakers Send Budget to Governor

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) — The state’s more than $31 billion annual spending plan is headed to the governor after Republicans rejected Democratic efforts to make further changes to the compromise legislation.

The House voted 64-28 to adopt the budget proposal agreed to in a rare conference committee late last week following disagreements over local projects. The Senate passed it 31-2 shortly afterward with little debate.

In the House, the Republican majority quickly dispatched four Democratic proposals that sought to restore regional projects, add funding for higher education to curb tuition hikes and make a further reduction in the state’s sales tax on groceries.

Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley said the changes would be funded through better-than-expected revenue collections that Republicans have refused to include in their projections.

“This is cash in the bank that we simply need to recognize, ladies and gentlemen,” Fitzhugh said.

House Finance Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, said Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration wants to keep the extra revenue in reserve to protect against expected cost increases for the state related to the federal health care overhaul.

“Tennesseans can be very proud of the fiscally responsible budget crafted this year,” House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville said in prepared statements after the budget passed. “In addition to these cuts, we were still able to provide more tax relief for Tennesseans than any year of my tenure, reduce the budget by 2 percent, and put $50 million away for a rainy day.”

Overall, Ramsey said he’s pleased with the budget that passed.

“Tonight the General Assembly passed a balanced budget which cuts spending, makes government smaller and provides tax relief to every Tennessean,” Ramsey said. “Republicans have proved once again that it matters who governs.”

The House budget bill received only one vote from a Democrat, Rep. Gary Odom of Nashville. All votes against the measure came from Democrats.

Associated Press writer Lucas L. Johnson II contributed to this report.

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