Haslam Thanks Legislature for Partnering To Make Largest Investment in K-12 Without a Tax Increase

Friday, April 22, 2016 | 03:39pm

General Assembly Passes Legislation to Strengthen K-12 and Higher Education

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today thanked members of the 109th General Assembly for their work this session and partnership in passing a balanced budget and legislation to continue the state’s focus on education.

“For Tennesseans who don’t follow news out of the State Capitol every day, I think you can take away two main things from this session: education and fiscal strength. We’re making the largest investment in K-12 without a tax increase in Tennessee’s history and reorganizing our higher ed structure in Tennessee in the best way to increase student success and the number of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate,” Haslam said.

“As I spend time with other governors I’m reminded how fortunate we are as a state to be passing a balanced budget this early in the year, to be taking on no new debt, to have no transportation debt, to be in a position to fund priorities and add to our savings account to prepare for uncertain times down the road,” he added.

The governor’s legislative agenda, which passed the General Assembly overwhelmingly, includes:

·         Basic Education Program (BEP) Enhancement Act: Clarifies the funding formula and implements a record-breaking investment for K-12 education in Tennessee.

·         FOCUS (Focus On College and University Success) Act: Reorganizes the existing higher education structure in Tennessee to better empower Tennessee’s public colleges and universities to increase student success and the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential.

·         Higher Education Authorization Act: Aligns the for-profit higher education sector with the Drive to 55.

·         Public Safety Act of 2016: Makes smarter use of prison bed space and stiffen penalties for the most serious offenses – like domestic violence – driving Tennessee’s violent crime rate.

·         Efficiency in Handgun Permitting Act: Streamlines the process and lowers the cost to obtain a handgun carry permit.

·         Fetal Remains Act: Strengthens accountability and transparency for surgery centers performing abortions.

For more information on these bills, visit http://www.tn.gov/governor/topic/2016-legislation.

The balanced FY16-17 budget, which takes on no new debt, includes:

·         $258 million for K-12 education, the largest investment without a tax increase in Tennessee’s history, including more than $100 million for teacher salaries, nearly $30 million to fund the 12th month of insurance for teachers, and $15 million for recurring technology funds for schools – an amount that doubles the state’s current investment and addresses concerns related to devices, infrastructure and instruction;

·         $135 million for higher education, including $69 million for campus support, $13.2 million for student aid, and $16 million to continue Drive to 55 initiatives;

·         $100 million for the Rainy Day Fund, bringing it to an estimated $668 million on June 30, 2017, which is more than double the amount in the fund in 2011;

·         $578.5 million ($448.5 million in state funds) to catch up on long-deferred maintenance and construction of state buildings, including $311.5 million ($275.8 million in state funds) for the top recommended capital projects from the UT and TBR systems: $85.5 million for a new Tennessee Tech University laboratory science building; $39 million for a new dentistry building at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis; $38.8 million for Tennessee State University’s new health science building; and $35.9 million for renovations to UT-Chattanooga academic buildings;

·         $142 million from the General Fund to repay the state’s Highway Fund, including $42 million for local governments’ transportation needs as part of the state aid program;

·         $60 million for salary increases for state employees and another $36 million for market rate adjustments for state employees making less than $50,000 annually;

·         $54.3 million for the new ECF CHOICES program to support competitive employment and independent living for Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities;

·         $10 million for the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Rural Development Initiative;

·         $12.8 million for facilities and homeland security upgrades for the Military Department;

·         $1.27 million to increase the number of drug recovery courts from 41 to 50 and for two additional veterans courts