Lee outlines spending plans in State of the State speech

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee says the state of Tennessee is hopeful. The declaration coming following a year-long battle with the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Tennessee surpassed 10,000 covid-19 deaths.

“We mourn the more than 10,000 Tennesseans we have lost in those deadly events this year,” Lee said to the lawmakers gathered at the War Memorial Auditorium. The typical venue is inside of the House chambers.

Hoping to bounce back from the fall out from the pandemic, Lee is outlining spending priorities.

“Tragedy will not define us and will not rob us of the opportunity that 2021 holds,” he said.

From $900 million in one-time capital improvement projects, rural investments, to a commitment to fully funding the basic education fund, the money is there and he plans to use it.

“When the dust settles on this year, our combined rainy day and Tenncare reserve funds will be $2 billion, the largest in the state’s history,” said Lee.

Democrats say more can be done, especially with the added revenue.

“You have to make investments into people the rainy day fund is at the highest it’s ever been, so we’re secure there -why are we putting more money on top of that instead of investing in people where it’s raining right now?” Sen. Raumesh Akbari, the Senate Democratic Caucus Chair said.

Lee added, “Indeed our budget is strong and the differences are stark when you compare our state’s conservative budget to states with veto different approaches.”

Democrats says the speech, in part, was divisive.

“He chose partisan rhetoric around weapons, around a woman’s right to choose, we went in the opposite direction,” Akbari said.

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