What would you do with more than a half-billion more dollars than you budgeted for?
It's an issue that will be confronting Tennessee lawmakers following the latest release of state revenue estimate that exceed expectations.
State Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes announced Wednesday that tax collections came in at $130 million above estimates in June, which brought the year-to-date surplus to $540 million.
Democrats, who make up barely a third of the members on Capitol Hill, have been calling for things like state college tuition cuts and lower sales tax on food as they watched tax collections come in over estimates for the past 11 months.
On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said the state's revenue surplus should stay in the bank despite the calls from Democrats to use it elsewhere.
"The reason we have a surplus is because we have been conservative, frugal and we have not overestimated revenues like most other states have," Ramsey told reporters at Legislative Plaza.
He did cite potential future expenses resulting from the new federal health care law.
"There is going to be a lot of added expense to states, but we don't know where that's going to be," added the Lt. Governor.
The surplus comes as the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and the Tennessee Board of Regents recently voted for tuition and fee increases of as much as 8% for the fall.
"These higher tuitions are taking some people out of the business of going to college," said former Democrat leader Jimmy Naifeh.
He watched the budget process on Tennessee's Capitol Hill for 38-years before announcing that he would retire this fall, but was disappointed that some of his party's ideas were not implemented in Republican Governor Bill Haslam's current budget.
"We thought we should help those who can help themselves the least by taking more off the sales tax," Naifeh told Nashville's News 2.
"The positive growth trend we are now enjoying is encouraging," Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes said in a statement Wednesday. "However, the latest national jobs report point to an economy that is still anemic and recovering slowly." "For the remainder of this year, we will continue to closely monitor collections and expenditures," added the commissioner.
Revenues in Tennessee have come over estimates made last year for the 11th month in a row.
Come next legislative session, which begins in January, a more than half-billion dollar surplus is expected to be a major issue on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.