Throughout the 2019 legislative session, there was strong debate between Republicans and Democrats over several key items up for discussion on the House floor.
However, we found common ground on the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget, which was unanimously approved by both House and Senate members. I supported this budget because it builds upon our recent priorities, makes thoughtful investments across state government, and preserves Tennessee’s AAA bond rating.
The budget allocates approximately $239 million into the Rainy Day Fund – bringing our state’s savings account to roughly $1.1 billion. It also cuts more than $35.2 million in taxes and saves $15 million for additional tax cuts next year. These reductions include $22 million in the Professional Privilege Tax, the elimination of the $6 million Gym Tax, and the repeal of the $435,000 ammunition tax for our law abiding citizens.
Our approved budget also fully funds the Katie Beckett program with a $27.3 million investment. It will provide lifesaving medical services through TennCare for Tennessee children with the most significant disabilities and highest medical needs, regardless of parental income levels.
We are also continuing our commitment to education by making an $11.3 billion total investment – including $6.6 billion in K-12 funding. Approximately $71 million will fund teacher pay raises, while $39.4 million will fully fund the state’s Basic Education Program to cover growth and inflation in the funding formula. The budget also allocates $40 million to secure our schools, and $25 million to expand vocational and technical training opportunities for the future leaders of this state.
Tennessee’s economy is firing on all cylinders, and this new budget includes $222 million in new economic development funding, which will help attract new business to Tennessee and support the growth and retention of our current and future workers.
We are also strengthening our corrections, court, and criminal justice systems through strategic investments that include $21 million for correctional officer and correctional counselor salaries so our prison facilities are properly staffed to ensure safety within our communities. A total of $3.4 million will support the work of our district attorneys and public defenders through pay increases and service credits. Finally, $3.3 million will be used to strengthen penalties against Fentanyl dealers, and $500,000 will be used to protect our elderly and vulnerable citizens who have made lasting contributions to this state.
Despite our differences, my colleagues and I believe this budget is a responsible approach that continues to address the many needs of our citizens. I am proud of the budget and all we have accomplished together this year. It has been an incredible honor to serve you, and this great state, and I thank you for your continued support.
William Lamberth is the House Majority Leader for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. He is also a member of the House Finance, House Government Operations, and House Calendar & Rules Committees, as well as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Lamberth lives in Portland and represents Tennessee House District 44, which includes part of Sumner County.