Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-MemphisFile Staff Photo by Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press
NASHVILLE — Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, is firing a shot across legislative Republicans’ bow, saying lawmakers should take a “jobs-centered” approach in ongoing discussions about Tennessee’s lottery-funded HOPE college scholarship program.
“The lottery conversation in recent months has consisted almost entirely of a single question: How can we reduce access to the HOPE Scholarship in order to insure the future financial solvency of the lottery account?” Kyle asked in a letter sent to lawmakers.
“I reject this notion,” Kyle said. “I believe instead we should ask, “What new efficiencies or revenue options can we explore to ensure that as many Tennesseans as possible have a higher education degree?’”
Kyle argues the state should use its $373 million reserve to deal with annual deficits of $21 million in the HOPE fund. If no changes occur, the fund’s balance is projected to fall to $50 million by 2024.
A Republican-led special legislative committee is looking at ways to solve the deficit issue. They include raising academic requirements, a proposal supported by some Republicans.
Other possibilities including reducing the size of the basic $4,000 HOPE scholarship or using exclude some students from wealthier families.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters earlier today the state “should take a very measured approach” to the problem.
“I think it is an issue. We are spending more than we’re bringing in and we can’t keep doing that and kicking the can down the road as they say. So I do think we should begin to come up with a way to address that sooner.”
Earlier in the day, Kyle noted that Tennesseans need higher education need to get jobs in a down economy.
“We’re not going broke on the lottery,” he said. “Spend the money now and help somebody get a damned job.”
For complete details, see tomorrow’s Times Free Press.
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, ...