Gov. Bill Lee Applauds General Assembly in Working Together to Pass Conservative Reforms

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Capitol Hill Week: 2019 legislative session adjourns with tax cuts, healthcare improvements, teacher and employee raises, conservative reforms and more.

Highlights of the final week of legislative action

NASHVILLE, Tenn

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee marked the close of the 2019 legislative session, a session which he said included the unanimous passage of his budget as well as the passage of his full agenda as outlined during his State of the State address in March.He said, “In March, I presented our budget and a series of priorities which I believe will be foundational to making Tennessee a leader in the nation.

Working with the General Assembly leadership and members, we passed reforms that will continue to build on the momentum our state has seen in recent years.”Governor Lee’s slate of priorities included 16 legislative initiatives “to work towards strengthening public education and school choice, enhancing workforce development, addressing criminal justice reform and public safety, promoting good government and developing solutions for rural Tennessee.”

 

He said the passage of the fiscal year 2020 budget “marked the first unanimous budget approval from the General Assembly since 2011. Notably, this budget includes a historic deposit to the state’s Rainy Day Fund that will elevate reserves to over $1.1 billion. Tax cuts included a full repeal of the Gym Tax, the elimination of sales and use tax on agricultural trailers and a reduction to the professional privilege tax.

Katie Beckett Waiver

“This budget provides $27.4 million to fund the Katie Beckett program which aids some of the state’s sickest and most medically-complex children,” added Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee Chairman Bo Watson (R-Hixson).  “It also includes $22 million to reduce the professional privilege tax which has been a conversation in the General Assembly for about 10 years. We are also reserving approximately $15 million next year for future tax relief as we evaluate the revenues that are being generated by the online sales tax; keeping with our commitment that revenues from the future online sales tax windfall would be used to offset other taxes in Tennessee.”

Tennessee Cuts Taxes

Governor Lee’s slate of priorities included 16 legislative initiatives “to work towards strengthening public education and school choice, enhancing workforce development, addressing criminal justice reform and public safety, promoting good government and developing solutions for rural Tennessee.”

 

He said the passage of the fiscal year 2020 budget “marked the first unanimous budget approval from the General Assembly since 2011. Notably, this budget includes a historic deposit to the state’s Rainy Day Fund that will elevate reserves to over $1.1 billion. Tax cuts included a full repeal of the Gym Tax, the elimination of sales and use tax on agricultural trailers and a reduction to the professional privilege tax.

 

“I commend the General Assembly for their work this session and I look forward to joining members in their districts in the coming months to highlight all that was accomplished this session. I am especially pleased with the outcome of the budget and our joint commitment to making sure Tennessee is well-managed and fiscally sound.”

He listed these highlights from his legislative agenda:

Strengthening Public Education and Expanding School Choice

  • Creating the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) to expand access to vocational and technical training to students
  • Establishing an education savings account program to expand school choice for low-income students in Davidson and Shelby counties
  • Creating the Future Workforce Initiative to prepare students for the jobs of the future in science, technology, engineering and math
  • A $71 million investment in pay raises for teachers across Tennessee and investment in professional development programming
  • A three-year pilot program to provide support services for high school students in Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties
  • Establish the Governor’s Civics Instructional Seal to support and recognize schools that prioritize teaching our nation’s history and civic values

    Tennessee Increases Teacher Pay
  • Investing an additional $175 million in new funding to support teachers and students in public schools
  • Establishing an independent statewide charter school authorizer and adding $6 million to the charter school facilities fund

 

Enhancing Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform 

  • Investing $40 million in school safety enhancements
  • Increasing penalties for trafficking fentanyl
  • Increasing the training pay supplement for firefighters and police officers
  • Increasing salaries for corrections professionals
  • Expanding the Electronic Monitoring Indigency fund to reduce needs for pre-trial incarceration
  • Eliminating the state fee for the expungement of records for those who have paid their debt to society

    Tennessee drug abuse recovery
  • $5 million to expand recovery courts and services for people in the justice system with drug abuse issues
  • $4 million investment in pre-release rehabilitation and education for incarcerated individuals

 

 

Investing in Health Care and Good Government Initiatives 

  • Establishing the Office of Faith Based Initiatives to support partnerships with the non-profit community
  • Expanding the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with an additional 24 positions dedicated to identifying fraud and waste
  • Investing an additional $11 million to support mental health services through the behavioral health safety net and regional mental institutes.
  • Increasing funding for graduate medical education at Tennessee’s medical schools and critical incentive programs that provide financial support to resident physicians who commit to living and working in our rural communities
  • Investing an additional $2 million recurring for the primary care safety net for federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) and community- and faith-based clinics, providing primary care services to low-income, uninsured adults
  • A $3 million recurring increase to support medical students who agree to work in an underserved area after graduation. These state dollars would draw down an additional $5.7 million in federal funds
  • $11.9 million investment to maintain pay increases funded in last year’s budget for providers delivering services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities

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