“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing,” — Theodore Roosevelt.
I sit on the Fiscal Review Committee, which oversees many of the state contracts and reviews many operations in the state. Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson gave us his quarterly report this week, and here are some of his findings:
The current state budget, enacted by the General Assembly, is balanced not only as required by Article II, Section 24, of the State Constitution, but also on a recurring basis.
Our current state debt is not excessive. The state’s general obligation debt has increased in the last year.
We have budgeted on a recurring basis for payment of principal and interest on state issued bonds.
The state’s retirement plan is sound.
The post-employment benefit obligation for our retirees is manageable.
The state’s unemployment trust fund is appropriately funded.
This favorable financial position is in large part a result of the willingness of the General Assembly to enact budgets that have forgone, reduced, or eliminated expenses, as well as the ability of the administration to create efficient operations.
The comptroller told us that Tennessee has a history of being a very low-tax state as evident by the several taxes we have lowered or cut in the last couple of sessions. However, the state has not always reduced taxes. According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, Tennessee has implemented five major tax increases since 1970 with an average increase of 18.64 percent.
Our budget last year was $32.7 billion and is made up of approximately $15 billion in state appropriations, $12.9 billion in federal funds, and almost $4.8 billion in other sources such as fees for services. The federal funds come into the state to fund several of their programs such as food stamps, assistance to needy families, unemployment insurance, title 1 education and several environmental programs. Did you know that Tennessee gets approximately $40 million per week in food stamp money and approximately 30 percent of our budget is in the TennCare program?
Comptroller Wilson said that Tennessee has two main challenges: keeping Tennessee a low-tax state while maintaining sound fiscal health and dealing with declining federal funding.
I want to thank Shelbyville Fire Chief Ricky McConnell for the invitation to the Tennessee Fire Service Coalition Ball on Tuesday evening. It was a great event, and I got to spend time with Ricky and Val McConnell, Brian and Beth Nicholson, Charles and Rita Armstrong, and Terry Vinson and his friend, Wanda Thompson. The following day the firefighters held a luncheon in the Capitol where I was able to visit with firefighters from across the state. I am always amazed at all the great things the firefighters have done and continue to do in our state.
This past week was the visitation day for the many disability organizations on the hill. I had a great visit from Christy Jensen and Chelsey Enloe from the Child Development Center in Shelbyville and got to hear more great things they are accomplishing in our community. Also, Beth Corley from Shelbyville came by my office to tell me about Tennessee Business Enterprises, which is an organization, that partners Tennessee with citizens that are legally blind to help them start food services businesses in our state.
Thursday night I am going to meet with Tamra King and the Bedford County Education Association and learn more about their concerns in the education area and go over the survey that they have taken about education in Bedford County and Tennessee. Then on Friday morning I am going to view first-hand Lincoln County teachers in their classrooms at Highland Rim School. I am going to visit Tascha Osgood’s class as well as Dana Casey’s class to learn more about how the Common Core Standards are being taught in Lincoln County. I am looking forward to these two events, because it will help me know more about education in Tennessee.
Friday evening I will again go to Fayetteville to attend the 4-H banquet as a guest of Dan Owen, extension agent, and get to see all the excitement that is happening with the 4-H’ers, and I am sure it will be a lot, as usual. Lincoln County always has great participation in FFA and 4-H Club activities, and they are learning valuable lessons to help them in their future endeavors.
Please feel free to stop by my office at War Memorial Building G 19A or give me a call if you have any questions or concerns. You can reach me at (615) 741-6824 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am honored to represent the people of the 62nd district!