Image Credit: Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook
The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Last week, the Tennessee General Assembly passed Governor Bill Lee’s $56.2 billion budget before calling it quits for the 113th legislative session. What are Tennessee taxpayers getting for their money?
Lee’s toll roads plan, aka the Transportation Modernization Act, comes with a $3.3 billion price tag. The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s four regions will each receive $750 million, with another $300 million in road project grants split between the state’s 95 counties.
Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology get $1 billion in funding, and there are some $400 million in tax cuts in the budget.
Lee’s original budget called for $100 million for crisis pregnancy centers, but lawmakers cut that down by 80% to $20 million. A 200% match for executive branch workers was cut in half, and legislators also said no to $9 million in salary increases for state employees.
The majority of the tax cuts will go to the business sector benefiting some of Tennessee’s biggest companies. A change to how these businesses depreciate assets will significantly benefit them over the next four years.
In addition to the depreciation change, which conforms to the federal bonus depreciation provisions of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, small businesses will also see some benefits. The standard deduction for excise tax is being raised to $50,000 of reported net income, impacting roughly 23,000 businesses in the state. Small to medium-sized businesses will see up to $1,250 in annual savings due to franchise tax relief that will exempt up to $500,000 of property.
Last year’s month-long tax holiday on food gets extended to three months running from August 1st to October 31st of this year.
Another large expense in the budget is Lee’s school security proposal, coming in at $223 million. Of that, $140 million will be used to put a school resource officer (SRO) in every public school in the state – $75,000 per officer – starting July 1st. $7 million will create a grant program that will provide state funds for SROs in private schools, while another $8 million has been allocated to expand behavioral health services. School security will also receive funds in the amount of $40 million for public schools and $14 million for private schools, double the amount that Lee asked for.
In addition, a request for $30 million for 122 Homeland Security agents to serve at public and private schools throughout the state was approved. Lee had included this in his original budget before the shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville.
Other law enforcement and first responder related expenses include $28.72 million for 142 new trooper positions, $4.52 million for 25 new forensic services positions at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to speed up the processing of lab results, and firefighters will now have access to workers’ compensation claims for post-traumatic stress disorder – something that lawmakers failed to push through last year.
$50 million has also been set aside for a possible expansion of the state’s prison system due to new criminal sentencing laws.
The new school funding formula, Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA) was fully funded in the amount of $750 million, with another $350 million added. State and local funding for the upcoming school year now totals $9 billion. $125 million has been set aside to increase salaries for public school teachers.
State parks and natural areas will get $288 million. This includes $776,300 for the new North Chickamauga Creek State Park, formerly a state natural area. The park will get a manager, three park rangers, and five other staff for the 7,093-acre park near Soddy-Daisy.
Memphis Grizzlies basketball arena and the football stadium at the University of Memphis will see $350 million for renovations.
Airports in the home counties of House leadership will be seeing upgrades to the tune of $16.2 million. House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s district gets a new airplane hangar at Crossville Memorial Airport for $1.2 million. House Speaker Pro Temp Pat Marsh’s district gets a $5 million sewer line for the Shelbyville Municipal Airport. Exceeding both these expenses is House Majority Leader William Lamberth’s district in Sumner County which gets a whopping $10 million for the Music City Executive Airport’s improvements.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.