NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Haslam delivered his last State of the State address on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill Monday night.
Haslam reflected on the past seven years, including his accomplishments with job creation, education, and fiscal decisions made during his term, while announcing new initiatives.
“So seven years later, it is time to ask ourselves – how are we doing at competing with and against the very best?” the governor asked.
“The answer: We’re doing really well. In the short time we’ve worked together, we have become one of the best destinations to live, work and raise a family,” he continued.
Some of the accomplishments noted during his speech were:
- Lowest unemployment rates in the state’s history
- Job growth rate greater than 17 percent, with nearly 400,000 net new private sector jobs created
- Fastest-improving students in the nation across math, reading and science,
- Highest high school graduation rates the state has ever seen
- With the proposed Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget, nearly $1.5 billion invested into K-12 education, with $500 million going to teacher salaries
- More than $500 million in tax cuts to Tennesseans, including a 30 percent cut on groceries
- A cut in year-to-year spending by more than a half billion dollars
- Tripling the state’s Rainy Day Fund
Haslam also touted the creation of Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, which gives all Tennesseans access to college, free of tuition and fees.
Along the lines of education, Haslam announced the Complete to Compete initiative during his speech. The initiative restructures financial aid requirements for Tennessee Promise and HOPE scholarships to keep students on track. It also requires community colleges to implement structured, ready-made schedules for all incoming full-time students based on their academic program.
“The research is clear: taking the credits needed to graduate on time results in better academic performance, higher retention rates, and the increased likelihood of completion,” Haslam explained.MORE: Complete College Tennessee Act of 2018
Haslam also introduced the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, which focuses on reforming the system while strengthening families and promoting public safety.
“We can do better. We can be smarter. And tonight I am asking the General Assembly to adopt responsible reforms that will focus the most significant state intervention on the most serious offenses,” he said.
The governor’s legislation follows recommendations from the task force on juvenile justice led by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris.MORE: Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018
Haslam ended his speech by calling on all Tennesseans to help finish “what we began.”
“It has been my life’s greatest honor to lead the state I love for the past seven years. Will you join me in finishing what we began? Tennessee, it is time to lead the nation. I believe we can and I believe we will,” he said.If you missed Haslam’s speech, click here to read it in full.