Now that the Special Session is complete, the General Assembly will reconvene the regular session on Monday evening, when lawmakers will gather to hear Governor Bill Haslam’s fifth annual budget address. Rising healthcare costs to the TennCare program combined with inflationary growth for the state’s Basic Education Program have compounded the state’s budget problems during the slow economic recovery. These two items will consume the vast majority of new revenue growth, leaving little discretionary money for improvements for other important state government needs unless other cuts are made. This will make passage of a conservative balanced budget that prioritizes education, job creation, and public safety challenging in 2015.
The State Funding Board met in December to reevaluate Tennessee’s economic condition and set a new growth rate of 2.6 to 3 percent upon which the 2015-16 budget year will be based. This compares to an estimated growth rate of 3.85 to 4.2 percent last year and equates to approximately $300 million in new revenues.
Citizens can view the Governor’s budget address at 6:00 p.m. CST through the General Assembly’s live video stream at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/. A more detailed budget presentation will take place on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. CST in the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee. Viewers can watch that presentation at the same website.
In the meantime, legislation is still being filed for consideration during the regular session. As of noon Thursday, 403 bills have been filed in the Senate and 419 bills have been filed in the House of Representatives. The deadline for filing all general bills for consideration is Thursday, February 12 for both houses. Senate Committees are scheduled to hear several important bills next week, as well as presentations on a number of other important state government matters. This includes a Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing on potential forthcoming legislation to authorize municipal electric systems and other governmental utility authorities to provide broadband services.