NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With state revenues coming up short the last few months, it could be a new landscape for many lawmakers, particularly in the House since they only have two-year terms and see decent turnover.
“They’re not used to seeing a budget which has reductions in it,” Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson) said.
Watson chairs up the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee. In essence, he’s tasked with helping make sure the state has a balanced budget.
“We can expect to see moving forward, probably some more dramatic reductions in certain areas,” Watson said.
Now those areas are unknown, as top lawmakers are currently holding meetings to flesh that out.
“If you’ve got to go with big money savings, you’ve got to look at labor,” Watson said. “But I tend to look at programs that are underperforming or not performing well.”
The Hixson Republican wanted to be clear – he doesn’t think we’re in a spot to start slashing labor costs—at least not yet.
“I’m not saying that that’s where we are, but your question was, ‘Where do you have to look?’” he said. “That’s one spot that everyone has to look at.”
Democrats didn’t want to comment on where we should save a little more but instead pointed to state leaders weighing a potential decision to decline federal education funding.
“It just doesn’t make sense. I continue to hear that they want to make sure that we don’t have the strings attached to the funding,” Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) said. “When I’ve asked what the strings are, I’ve gotten nothing but crickets.”
Instead of seeing huge cuts, you may see a reluctance to start new programs.
“That’s one of the things that newer members have to learn and adjust to, is when we bring new legislative ideas that cost money, a lot of times the cost is associated with increasing labor costs,” Watson said.
Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed budget will likely come out later in November or December.
Last year, he held several meetings with every department in the state to inquire about their budgetary desires. As of publish time, he hasn’t set those up this year – though there is plenty of time left to do so.