- Highlights from Gov. Haslam's State of the State Address
- April 7, 2017 | Author: Nicole Osborne
- Law Firm: Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C. - Chattanooga Office
Gov. Haslam opened his annual "State of the State" address on Monday with the phrase "Let's talk about the Tennessee we can be..." And, he did just that. The governor presented his $37 billion budget and shared that the state is in great financial shape. Tennessee has a triple-A credit rating, $1.1 billion in projected surplus money, and no plan to take on any new debt. He touted that out of the 50 states, Tennesseans pay the lowest amount of tax as a percentage of income. Take that to the bank.
To no surprise, the governor spent much time advocating for his IMPROVE Act to raise gas and diesel fuel taxes. Gov. Haslam voiced, "a safe and reliable network is what we need to be the Tennessee we can be." Selling the plan, he emphasized that the current 21-cent gas tax, which was set in 1989, equals about 11 cents today due to inflation. He spent considerable time stressing the importance of a single sales tax method to spur economic development and using $277 million of existing surplus money to fund transportation projects. Talk it up, Gov.
Sidenote: This week two House members, Rep. David Hawk and Majority Leader Glen Casada, threw a wrench in Gov. Haslam's IMPROVE Act by introducing their own transportation infrastructure improvement plan. This alternative plan proposes to divert money from the state's existing seven percent sales tax base to fund transportation needs. But, here's the kicker - Hawk and Casada are the expected sponsors to carry the governor's IMPROVE Act in the House. How that'll work out, no one knows. Too many cooks in the kitchen.
However, the education portion of the speech stole the show. Think back to Oprah Winfrey's famed giveaway show. Now, substitute a free college education instead of a free car. Gov. Haslam revealed his plan to expand the Tennessee Reconnect program to allow all adults in Tennessee access to free community college. And, he unveiled the Tennessee STRONG initiative, which allows all Tennessee National Guard members access to full in-state tuition reimbursement. Channeling Oprah... you get an education! Everyone gets an education!