NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The governor is in the midst of holding his annual budget hearings. It’s not the most appealing topic but with some budget cuts expected, it’s the last chance for departments to make their plea for more funding.
“Our revenue is certainly not keeping up with inflation, which is an issue,” Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Chief of Bureau of Administration Joe Galbato said.
On Wednesday, Gov. Bill Lee heard from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) which is seeing a struggle with a backlog of digital forensics – investigations that deal with electronic data.
“Currently, we have unacceptable turnaround times of a little over a year,” TBI Director David Rausch said. “Exactly the same problem we had when we came to you about forensics.”
Rausch is referring to last year’s budget hearing, when slow sexual assault kit turnaround times were national news.
However, the bureau said that time has been cut down significantly after an infusion of money in last year’s budget.
“Our processing is down from a high of 42 weeks to we are now at 18 weeks,” Rausch said. “We are well on the way to the goal of 12 or less.”
TDOT also laid out its plan for the next fiscal year, which included its controversial toll lane concept set to be in place by 2026.
“We’re going to be as aggressive as we can be and move as quickly as we can be,” TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley said.
However, TDOT did echo concerns of many other departments and financial experts: Inflation is squeezing many of its ambitious plans.
“We are seeing double digit variances in the cost of materials that go into building a road,” TDOT Chief of Bureau of Engineering Will Reid said. “We’re seeing increases in costs that we haven’t seen certainly in my career.”
Reid estimated that asphalt costs were up nearly 30% and other material items, like guardrails, were up nearly 60%.