Tough choices ahead in state budget says Governor - WKRN News 2

Tough choices ahead in state budget says Governor

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Governor Bill Haslam thinks next year's Tennessee state budget will be his "hardest" as he nears his fourth year in office.

His comments come on the first day of nearly two weeks of annual budget hearings for the dozens of state departments and agencies.

The governor indicated he was a "little surprised" that the state's latest revenues did not meet projections.

"This is will be the first time that our revenues don't exceed our forecasts," Haslam said Tuesday after the morning session of the budget hearings. "You are going to hear a lot of requests with for increases or for things put out to be cut, that they hope are not, but we won't be able to meet all those requests."

The governor blamed less than expected numbers from the state's franchise and excise taxes for businesses and corporations.

The governor began the session by saying he's asked all the departments and agencies to present a scenario of a 5-percent cutback.

When asked how realistic that is, the governor replied, "I think good management would tell you that it is not going to be the same across all departments, there's some that have taken bigger cuts in the last couple of years that we will try to be a little easier on, others have not had that."

Mr. Haslam said he would be more "strategic and surgical" rather than do straight across-the-board cuts.

The department first up at the budget hearings won't be facing any cuts.

Instead, K-12 education, which was about one-sixth of last year's $33 billion state budget, will be getting increases as part of the Basic Education Program, a formula for funding schools.

Included in that will likely be raises for the state's teachers.  How much, however, will depend on how other budget considerations play out.

Commissioner Kevin Huffman touted last week's news that according to a national test, Tennessee students are the fastest improving in the country.

Governors typically introduce their budgets early in the legislative session that begins in January though they are generally one of the last things passed by lawmakers.

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