Tennessee Budget: Gov. Bill Lee proposes $284M more in cuts for next year

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is proposing another $284 million in budget cuts next year due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican’s team said Thursday the cuts would be in addition to $397 million in recurring costs removed from the budget in March when the crisis was in its initial stages.

Finance Commissioner Butch Eley says officials are adjusting based on a revenue shortfall of up to $1.5 billion through the next budget year.

Multi-year cuts will include up to 12% reductions to departments; reductions to capital projects and capital maintenance funding; bonds for some capital projects; and a yet-to-be-fleshed-out employee buy-out initiative over the next two years.

The budget plan removes the remaining $58 million set aside for teacher pay raises. The governor had planned $117 million for the raises, then $58 million of that was cut in the virus-hampered budget update in March.

The $167.1 million in bonds would include already planned funding of $65 million in economic incentives for Amazon’s planned operations center in Nashville and $50 million for Volkswagen’s expected car production growth in Chattanooga.

The plan reduces some money set aside for the first year of Lee’s court-blocked school voucher program by $22 million, bring the total down to about $16 million. A hearing is set in the state’s appeal on Aug. 5.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday effectively kept the voucher program from being implemented for the 2020-21 school year, since most schools will already be starting by August.

It’s unclear if Lee’s administration will move around the money for the voucher program.

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