Key pieces of governor’s legislative agenda continue education reform and improve business climate
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s first legislative session as the state’s chief executive was filled with victories for the new governor.
In February, Haslam, flanked by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell, announced his legislative priorities, including: an overhaul of tenure tying it to teacher performance; revising the state’s civil justice system to bring predictability to companies and improve the state’s business environment; removing the cap on and opening enrollment to charter schools; and allowing college students to use HOPE lottery scholarships for summer classes.
The governor’s legislative package was geared toward making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and the General Assembly supported and embraced his agenda.
The governor delivered in March his first State of the State address, calling upon all those in state government to join him in transforming how the state sets priorities and makes choices.
His budget proposal absorbed the $1.8 billion reduction in federal funding from the previous year by doing what Tennessee families have done during these difficult times: evaluating their needs and available resources and setting priorities.
The final $30.8 billion budget also reflected responsible investments, reductions and savings, including:
- $1 million in recurring funds to soften the impact of the Hall Income Tax on seniors;
- a 1.6 percent salary increase for state employees – the first in four years;
- restoring $70.4 million to the Rainy Day Fund;
- $3.8 billion to fully fund the BEP, including a $48.7 million increase for K-12 education;
- $71.3 million for disaster relief resulting from recent storms and flooding;
- and $10 million for the Memphis Research Consortium.
“I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together this session, and adjourning this early in May reflects legislative leadership’s commitment to conducting its business in an efficient and effective manner – something I believe will be a trademark of this leadership,” Haslam said. “I have enjoyed working with Lt. Gov. Ramsey, Speaker Harwell, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick to help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and I look forward to building upon the progress and work we have done this session.”