For now: State budget divides Tennessee House and Senate

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In the midst of continued Tennessee Capitol hill protests on a variety of racial issues, state lawmakers are divided over a final state budget.

The House and Senate for the moment have different versions.

It comes after two more protesters were warned about shouting from a House gallery before continuing and then being escorted from the chamber.

The third such episode took place just as the House was finishing 18-amendments attached to one of the documents that make up the state budget.

All but two of the amendments were brought by Democrats and they all were defeated along party lines which reflected the nearly 3-1 Republican majority in the House.

One of the main sticking points between the Senate budget passed last week and the one proposed in the House is sales tax holidays.

The House wants several times of the year when Tennesseans don’t have to pay almost ten-cents in tax on every dollar, but it would take away an estimated $100-million dollars in revenue for the state budget.

“On a variety of items, clothes, furniture, and cars we hope will announce that Tennessee is reopening for business,” said Republican House Majority Leader William Lamberth while outlining the sales tax proposal.

The Senate budget is without such a plan.

Another difference is that cuts over two years are planned in the House version while the senate budget plan does it over three years.

One of the amendments proposed that was turned away restored teacher raises that were in Governor Bill Lee’s original budget proposal.

“We are still supportive of that,” said House Republican Matthew Hill. “But unfortunately things have changed drastically and financially…”

Rep. Hill’s budget amendment giving 90-percent of K-12 teachers a one-time bonus of $1,000 dollars did pass.

The minority Democrats wondered why both houses led by Republicans were not taking money from state’s rainy day fund for the budget, instead of putting more in it.

“That is crazy,” said House Democrat Caucus Chair Mike Stewart to WKRN-TV. “This is a rainy day with COVID-19 and we need to use that rainy day money now.”

Both the Senate and House are using reserves from other departments to help balance the state budget.

Differences between the House and Senate budget are expected to go to a conference committee of members from both chambers.

This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.

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