Governor Lee presents supplemental appropriation amendment to his 2019-2020 budget proposal
Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter presented Governor Bill Lee’s revised revenue and spending plan for the 2019-2020 fiscal year to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Tuesday. The supplemental appropriations amendment is customarily introduced by the governor in the final weeks of the legislative session to make adjustments to the budget submitted earlier in the year. It also signals the beginning of final state budget negotiations between the administration and members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
McWhorter outlined several new education initiatives, including $2.8 million to improve literacy programs. The proposal provides $750,000 in new funds for East Tennessee State University (ETSU) to establish a public-private partnership resulting in a Center of Excellence dedicated to improving health access. The Center will also focus on rural-based research to identify gaps in physical and behavioral outcomes, clinical improvement, and improved long-term care.
In other education expenditures, the amendment provides $1 million to be used by Columbia State, Motlow State, Roane State, Chattanooga State, and Cleveland State Community Colleges for their mechatronics program. This is a dual enrollment program between middle college high schools and the community colleges training students to become technicians who operate, maintain and repair high-tech automated manufacturing systems. The program provides high school students with an opportunity to receive a certificate in mechatronics that will greatly enhance their opportunities to receive a high-quality job.
In addition, the amendment provides $800,000 in new funds for Tennessee State University’s Nursery Research Center in McMinnville. This TSU facility has an annual economic impact to the nursery industry in excess of $25 million, providing research and outreach in pathology, entomology, genetics, horticulture and sustainability, and weed sciences.
The administration is also recommending $5.6 million in grants for non-profits across the state to provide a variety of needed services to Tennesseans. McWhorter said the items were identified because their missions align with Governor Lee’s priorities. Governor Lee has expressed strong support for non-profits and faith-based organizations, which he believes can be a part of the solution for many issues facing the state. Approximately 60 percent of the grants are related to education, 26 percent to reducing recidivism, and 14 percent to rural development, all of which are part of the governor’s priorities.
Other highlights include fully funding the Tennessee State Trooper Salary Survey, new money to treat prisoners under the custody of the Department of Correction who suffer from Hepatitis C, and matching funds which will help build a Radioactive Materials Training Center near the new Y-12 National Security Complex Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge. This will be a highly advanced and technical state-of-the-art training facility where local, state, and federal personnel will develop advanced skills necessary to handle a spectrum of disaster incidents related to radioactive materials. In combination with the Y-12 National Security Complex Uranium Processing Facility and a separate meeting facility, the projects are expected to create 900 jobs. The $3.6 billion Uranium Processing Facility is the largest construction project in Tennessee history.
Along with consideration of the governor’s supplemental appropriations proposal, the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee’s Revenue Subcommittee began reviewing 196 amendments to the budget this week which have been filed by State Senators.