Budget proposal preserves direct services

On March 16, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris

 By Senator Mark Norris, Tennessean.com
March 16, 2011

Balancing the state’s budget — it’s the one task the Tennessee Constitution mandates that we address each year.

Fortunately, unlike Congress and the federal government, the state of Tennessee is up to this increasingly challenging task as evidenced by Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget, introduced Monday night.

Over the past three years, we have reduced discretionary state spending by 21 percent. Continuing that trend, Gov. Haslam proposes to reduce spending by an additional 2.5 percent across the board.

Gov. Haslam’s budget doesn’t balance our budget at the expense of direct services. To quote the governor, “In Children’s Services, there will be no reductions in child welfare services. …There will be no service reductions in Human Services and minimal shifts in Mental Health.”

Rather, through reductions primarily in administrative costs, we hope to be able to refocus our efforts on what matters most: making government more responsive, delivering excellent service and rebuilding our reserves.

In short, Gov. Haslam asks us to do what Tennessee’s citizens are already doing: spending less and working harder.

Education, health get boost

While cutting administrative overhead, the governor proposes to increase funding in important areas such as education. He has proposed an increase of more than $200 million for the state’s education programs and an increase of nearly $600 million in health and social services, while trimming capital-outlay programs by nearly one-quarter of a billion dollars.

Tennessee has a history of fiscal conservativism. Our Consolidated Retirement System is funded at over 90 percent and is the envy of many other states. We have made judicious use of our “rainy-day” fund through difficult economic times. It is good to see the Haslam administration replenishing it.

In addition to maintaining core services and restoring our reserves, the budget also looks to the future prosperity of the state by supporting economic development in manufacturing, transportation and bio-medical research. By providing resources that support infrastructure, work-force development, construction of new port facilities and investments in our many research institutions, we will ensure partnerships between state and private sectors in order to transform those investments and research into many high-quality, high-paying jobs.

Gov. Haslam is to be commended on his first budget. It is responsible, realistic and refreshingly straightforward as we proceed along the road of economic recovery.

 

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