published Monday, January 30th, 2012

Haslam calls for Tennessee to ‘aspire’ for more, ‘believe in better’

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam plans to outline his vision tonight of a Tennessee in which state government and citizens are “aspiring to be more” and “believing in better.”

That is especially so when it comes to how state government “serves our citizens and taxpayers, the education of our children and the health of our economy,” the Republican said, giving reporters a preview of his annual State of the State address to the General Assembly.

Much of that will play out in Haslam’s proposed 2012-2013 budget for the General Assembly.

Among other things, the spending proposal will provide new funding for economic development grants to companies and inflationary increases in K-12 public education.

State workers, teachers and higher education employees will see pay increases, but Haslam said his own preference _ and legislation he has proposed _ would do away with across-the-board boosts.

His budget also includes funding to begin whittling away at a huge backlog of building projects at public colleges and universities. Haslam said the amount will be “very significant.”

“They’ve been delayed too long,” Haslam said. “We have a serious backlog of needed projects across the state.”

Administration officials say it will be less than the ambitious $2.1 billion, five-year plan pushed by higher education officials.

“We’re also restoring a number of the core services that were cut,” Haslam said noting the services have been funded through non-recurring money the past two years and were scheduled to go away in the new budget.

“Everybody agreed to the cuts on paper, but in reality when those play out there are a lot of things in services, none of us as Tennesseans wnat to see go away,” Haslam said.

The budget calls for continuing to rebuild the Rainy Day emergency reserve fund, Haslam said, noting reserves “came in very handy for this state in difficult times.”

The governor said state government’s “role is to provide the very best service we can at the very lowest price of our citizens. My job as governor is to make sure we’re doing that, we’re providing those servces in a customer friendly and effective way.”

Gov. Bill Haslam’s annual State of the State address to a joint convention of the state House and Senate begins at 7 p.m. EST. It will be carried live on WTCI-TV, Chattanooga’s public television station.

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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