Lawmakers pore over multiple budget plans

On May 25, 2010, in News 2010, by Mark Norris

By Phil West, CommercialAppeal.com
May 25, 2010

NASHVILLE — State legislators on Monday began dissecting a Senate Republican budget proposal, one of three that lawmakers will examine before settling on a funding plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Republican plan would save $113.4 million by rejecting Gov. Phil Bredesen’s proposed 2 percent bonus for state employees and cut children’s and women’s programs as well as trimming money for purchasing wetlands.

The GOP plan would, among other things, appropriate money for a new communications system for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Approving a state budget is the only business legislators are constitutionally required to complete during their legislative session, which is drawing to a close.

“It looks to me like the biggest difference between this thing and the budget the governor put forth is we’re taking $113 million in employee raises and spending $120 million on radio towers,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis.

“Everything else is close.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, noted there is one big difference between the plans.

“This is done without the tax increases the governor has proposed, and that’s a very important distinction that has to be made,” Norris said.

The Republican budget plan makes no mention of $5 million for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

The Bredesen budget and a proposal by House Democrats include money for the civil rights museum.

Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, the committee vice chairman, took issue with reducing money for the state’s purchase of wetlands.

“To obliterate that portion of the budget for land that our children cannot replace is disappointing,” Henry said.

Committee chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said more money could be available for those programs in future years.

“We thought it was a very difficult time to be expending this money, and over the next couple of years be laying off thousands of state employees,” McNally said.

“That was our rationale.”

Senators decided to continue their budget deliberations this morning.

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