Haslam talks education, healthcare in Knoxville

Haslam talks education, healthcare at annual Governor's Breakfast in Knoxville

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Gov. Bill Haslam was in Knoxville Friday morning for the annual Governor's Breakfast and highlighted educational investments in his budget proposal. Gov. Bill Haslam was in Knoxville Friday morning for the annual Governor's Breakfast and highlighted educational investments in his budget proposal.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Gov. Bill Haslam was in Knoxville Friday morning for the annual Governor's Breakfast and highlighted educational investments in his budget proposal.

"So many families never dream that school beyond high school is for them," Haslam told a packed room of local and state leaders at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Haslam discussed his proposal to offer free community college or tech school situation for the first two years to high school graduates. He introduced the plan called the "Tennessee Promise" during his State of the State address Monday.

"We're really doing this for a couple things: one to provide families that opportunity they never thought they would have and second to prepare the right workforce for Tennessee," Haslam said.

Haslam explained the funding behind it, saying it would be paid through an endowment.

Around $300 million from the lottery scholarship reserve would be used for the program, leaving about $110 million left in the reserve.

The formula for lottery scholarships would also change, giving $3,000 to students in four-year colleges for the first two years and $5,000 for the second two years.

That's changing from the current plan giving students $4,000 for all four years.

‘We would anticipate that the universities will use some of their institutional funds to maybe shift some of their scholarship programs to be a little heavier weighted toward the first two years," Haslam said.

Medicaid Expansion

Haslam also defended his decision not to expand TennCare.

Haslam said Medicaid accounts for the majority of the state's $32.5 billion budget.

"Today it is has already grown to be more than 30 percent of the budget," Haslam said. "While the federal government is pouring an immense out of money in this, ultimately we're still going to have to pay a portion of this as well."

If Tennessee expanded coverage, around 300,000 uninsured Tennesseans would become covered.

The federal government would cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years but it's after that point that Haslam said would leave the state with a financial burden.

Haslam said he worries expanding Medicaid would mean other critical programs would suffer to make up the cost.

"Every time it takes more, something has to go away so we're going to have to pay teachers less, or charge more tuition at our colleges and universities or provide less services to families that use our Department of Children's Services," Haslam said.

Expanding Medicaid is something Democrats like Knoxville Rep. Gloria Johnson said must be done to insure the hundreds of thousands of people in the state without healthcare.

"It's so distressing to me that we have so many people that are doing the best they can and many of them are working folks and they're not able to get healthcare," Johnson said. "They have to get in line at midnight on a Friday night to be seen the next day."

‘We understand all the pluses but we still have to deal with the financial reality," Haslam said.

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