“These policies are hurting Tennesseans across our state,” Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) said. “It’s like it just falls on deaf ears.”
Late last month, Republican state leaders announced a move to study whether it was feasible to decline the funding, citing strings attached.
“It just doesn’t make sense. I continue to hear that they want to make sure that we don’t have the strings attached to the funding,” Freeman said. “When I’ve asked what the strings are, I’ve gotten nothing but crickets.”
More than likely, other lawmakers don’t know the answer to that question.
“We’ve always said, ‘There are strings attached, there are strings attached,’” Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson) said. “But nobody’s really done the deep dive to define what those strings are.”
Watson chairs up the Finance, Ways and Means Committee in the Senate. He’s tasked with keeping the budget balanced, a task that could grow much more difficult with the potential rejection of federal funding.
“These are Tennessee taxpayer dollars. Tennesseeans pay federal income tax, and so these are Tennessee dollars,” Watson said. “You have to make that decision of if you want those dollars going somewhere else or not.”
If Republican leadership pushes the concept forward, Tennesseans potentially wouldn’t reap the benefit of some of the federal taxes they pay. The state would also be the first to successfully do so.
News 2 asked Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) if that was appropriate on top of already coming up short in revenue the past few months. “There’s a commitment in this state to make sure that our kids get what they need, that they’re served appropriately,” he said.
Lee did distance himself several times from the group, twice saying he didn’t call or task the group. That credit goes to Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).
Democrats have railed against the idea of rejecting federal education dollars.
“These are our federal tax dollars that go to the federal government that flow back to the state that we’re just going to turn our back to. It’s irresponsible,” Freeman said. “We deserve better as Tennesseans.”
Watson did say he felt like we were a long way from making a decision.
The group starts meeting on November 6.