May 31, 2011 Governor's Update : Legislative Accomplishments





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Uploaded on May 31, 2011

Yvette Martinez: We're here with Governor Bill Haslam at the end of the first legislative session of your administration and finishing a week before Memorial Day. That's not happened before 1998, since 1998, how does that benefit the state?

Governor Haslam: Well, a couple of ways, number one it saves the state money, saved the state almost a half a million dollars, that's always good. Second, I think it lets us all focus on executing state government better. Legislature obviously plays a really important role in our state but it also means that our commissioners end up spending a lot of time in hearings and other legislative events, this allows them to go and focus even more on serving East Tennessee citizens.

Yvette Martinez: There were some big victories for education and jobs as the legislature passed your initiatives.

Governor Haslam: We had four big initiatives and they passed all of them actually fairly overwhelmingly including the budget, which we can come back to, but that passed unanimously, house and senate, I don't really know the last time that happened. So, very grateful for the bipartisan support on that. But we decided early in the session not to have tons of initiatives. We wanted to have four or five really big ones so we focused early on tenure reform thinking that it's so important who stands in front of our children every day. Teachers are a wonderful asset and the vast majority of our teachers in Tennessee are great. We want to make certain though that the ones that we give a lifetime right to teach which is what tenure is basically, that they meet the high standards that tenure should deserve. So, we were grateful to see that enacted. Further reform regarding charter schools, charter schools aren't the answer for every child. Most of our schools in Tennessee will always be out of our traditional public school system, but charters are a good alternative and we had an arbitrary cap on the number of charters that was removed. We also did some things that are going to allow, we think, some additional schools, charter schools to be set up in the state, which is a good thing. I think the third thing is a major piece of legislation around tort reform which will, I think, significantly enhance the business climate in Tennessee . I was also very pleased that we had a piece on making lottery scholarships available for summer school students. One of the pieces of Complete College Act is to try to have students graduate on time and not take 6 or 7 years to graduate and that helps the student, and helps the students family, and saves the state money too. So, we thought it made sense to have those hours apply for summer school as well. All and all very very pleased and grateful for the way the legislature responded to some of our initiatives this year.

Yvette Martinez: Your proposed budget passed, but there were some changes in the last days of the session. What prompted those changes and how are they going to benefit Tennesseans?

Governor Haslam: Well a couple of things, number one, the governor proposes the budget and the legislature responds to it, so there's always some changes. Second, we got some good news late in that the revenues were a little better than expected. You propose a budget in February or March and then 2 or 3 months later you know a lot more you have 2 or 3 more months of revenue to base your projections on. So the good news for Tennessee is those revenues strengthened some. We also found out the federal government owed us some money for some Tenncare, Medicaid issues that we were able to apply to be able to take away some cuts that we were going to be forced to make. I think the significant thing about the budget is this: first of all it's four percent less than last year. So we decreased the size of state government like we said we would. But we were also able to give a raise for the first time in four years for state employees, only 1 point 6 percent, we'd like to do more. But still it gets us having a raise we hadn't had. We were able to add 70 million dollars to the states savings account, the rainy day fund, but we were also able to apply 70 million dollars toward disaster relief across the state.

Yvette Martinez: Alright, well thank you Governor and join us for more updates as we continue to go through 2011 and monitor and help with your state government.


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