The State's Basic Education Program — the mechanism for funding public schools — was fully funded at $5.3 billion. The BEP funding contains an additional $47.8 million for annual growth and inflationary adjustments as well. Likewise, higher education funding was increased by over $81 million, bringing the total appropriation to $3.8 billion.
With this budget, we very clearly want to reform how government works and, in turn, grow the career opportunities for Tennesseans. I believe these priorities, in the form of a balanced budget, will help place our economy back on a solid footing once again.
Efforts to fight
Earlier in the year, Gov. Bill Haslam announced his Public Safety Plan which aims to address violent crime in Tennessee. Among the measures funded fully in the budget are laws addressing gang violence, prescription drug abuse, repeat domestic violence offenders and synthetic drugs.
This budget reflects what many of us understand. Our economy is slowly rebounding, but we have a ways to go. I believe Gov. Haslam is the right man to lead us at this time because of his strong business background and his vision for transforming the way government operates in Tennessee.
Legislators continue efforts
to reform government
Speaker Beth Harwell and the majority leadership have consistently called for a review of how the government operates. Last year, under her leadership, the House literally reduced its size by closing down several duplicative committees, saving taxpayers approximately half a million dollars. The movement to refashion government from a hurdle to a resource continued in this legislative session.
Reforms to unemployment
A bill to bring major reforms to Tennessee’s unemployment insurance program passed the House late in the session following a back-and-forth debate centered on helping individuals who have lost their jobs.
Rep. Jimmy Matlock authored House Bill 3431 — the Unemployment Insurance Accountability Act of 2012 — after a series of meetings with Tennessee businessmen and job creators. He served as chair the House Majority Small Business and Economic Development Task Force. The task force held a series of hearings with members of the small business community, entrepreneurs, and other individuals involved with private economic development. Each came back with serious proposals to jump-start Tennessee’s economy, but the main complaint focused on government and the lack of accountability in the unemployment insurance program.
We are for helping everyone with legitimate needs and building them up into the economy. Our intent, with this legislation, is to motivate and help those citizens who need the support.
Matlock also discussed the work of the small business task force that helped him craft this legislation. He remarked, “We spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to reform the process and ensure those who have legitimate needs can get that help without taking advantage of taxpayer dollars.”
The legislation makes the following revisions to the system:
1. Increases definition of misconduct to absenteeism;
2. Increases audits of those seeking unemployment benefits;
3. Heightens work search requirements for those utilizing unemployment benefits;
4. Prohibits claimants from obtaining benefits if the claimant is "incarcerated four or more days in any week for which unemployment benefits are being claimed"; and
5. Ensures claimants cannot receive both a severance package and draw unemployment support at the same time.
The legislation passed the House 76-17.