With organizational tasks out of the way, state lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill last week to begin the work of the first regular week of the 106th General Assembly. The first order of business was a joint session of the House and Senate to hear Governor Phil Bredesen’s State of the State address. The governor had been scheduled to lay out his budget plans in the annual address, but due to the potential impact of the federal stimulus legislation, those details have been delayed until mid-March.
Tennessee could receive up to $4 billion under the federal spending package. Legislators, however, are waiting to see what federal mandates and restrictions will be attached to the final plan approved by Congress. That action could be coming soon if the President signs the bill into law Tuesday as anticipated.
The Governor emphasized that Tennessee has a rough road ahead with its state budget regardless of the stimulus package due to declining revenues. That point was echoed by State Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz who told members of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday that Tennessee’s year-to-date collections were $522.1 million less than the budgeted estimate. The January revenues reflected dismal holiday retail sales and is the eleventh negative growth month in sales tax collections, starting with January 2008.
The only new proposal called for by the governor in his speech was creation of a “Solar Institute” in Tennessee to position the state to be a research leader in making solar power practical. The governor said solar power is far too expensive but ripe for breakthroughs with scientific advancements that could be made through Tennessee’s leading energy research facilities, like the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.... read the rest of the story by Subscribing now.