published Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Senators send $30.78 billion budget to Haslam

NASHVILLE — The state’s $30.78 billion 2011-2012 budget is on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam after the Senate today unanimously approved the annual spending plan on a 32-0 vote.

House members passed the budget Friday on a 96-0 vote.

The proposal anticipates using an estimated $126 million in federal funds to restore 20 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for thousands of jobless Tennesseans unable to find work.

An accompanying bond bill contains $34.6 million for expansion of the planned Wacker Chemical plant now under construction in Bradley County, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, told colleagues.

Other budget provisions include $71 million to help counties and cities, including Hamilton and Bradley counties, deal with recent tornado damages and West Tennesseans with flood damage. The money will used as matching funds for federal disaster assistance.

With regard to the restoration of the federal extended benefit program, Gov. Bill Haslam helped broker an agreement between the House and Senate. The program abruptly ended April 16 after the state didn’t move to tweak state law to comply with new federal standards.

State Labor and Workforce Development officials estimated about 28,000 lost their extended benefits or would have lost them between July 16 and Dec. 31, when the program ends.

But a fiscal note on an amendment to the actual bill restoring the program cites a 15,000 figure. The federal government will not pay the extended benefit for government workers who were fired. So the program will cost the state about $3.15 million to provide the benefits to them.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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