Tennessee’s budget outlook: ‘It’s not going to be pretty’ and ‘everything is on the table’

Tennessee News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Grim descriptions of the state’s budget picture came Tuesday from Tennessee’s Capitol Hill as Governor Bill Lee expressed frustration with federal stimulus money.

“It’s not going to be pretty,” said new state finance commissioner Butch Eley about the state budget as new revenue figures were announced, “There’s no question about it.”

Eley outlined the key numbers of the COVID-19 impact, placing blame on falling revenues. Revenue fell by nearly 40 percent which was $694 million less than what was estimated for the state budget.

State revenues reported for April are actually figures taken in March, but they show overall state revenues.

Making the ugly prettier falls on key figures like Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, who reminded people first about where the state budget gets its money.

“We derive the bulk of our revenue from sales taxes and when businesses are shut down they are not generating sales taxes,” said Sen. Johnson.

When those taxes are way down, huge shortfalls appear in the state budget where money was going to be spent. Education, transportation, and healthcare could all be affected.

“Everything is on the table at this point,” added Sen. Johnson, “Nothing is sacred at this point when we have a budget situation like we are in right now.”

Where to cut and what money is available to spend are questions state lawmakers face in a few weeks. Critical questions that Governor Bill Lee addressed Tuesday morning in his group dealing with where potentially $5 billion in federal stimulus money for Tennessee could go to in the state.

“One of the pieces of guidance that has not been made clear and there is still a lot of conversation around that–governors like myself are pushing very hard for expanded leniency on how we use this money,” he told his bipartisan group aimed at accounting for the federal stimulus funds.

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