Roads, stadiums and DCS: What's in Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's $55.6B budget proposal




  • In Business
  • 2023-02-07 01:52:13Z
  • By The Tennessean

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is proposing a $55.6 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which is a decrease in overall spending compared to last year.

The state's budget decreased $600 million as money from federal pandemic recovery efforts dries up. Tennessee's sales tax revenue grew by 11%, allowing it to increase direct state spending by $3.1 billion compared to last year.

Lee's budget proposal, released at the start of his State of the State address on Monday, contains his administration's priorities for the fiscal year starting July 1. Lawmakers will review the document and are likely to push for changes.

Gov.
Gov.  

The administration will release a budget amendment, usually in March, containing changes. Lawmakers will then approve the final budget at the end of legislative session usually in April or early May.

Here are some of the top highlights in the budget as of its release.

$3 billion for Tennessee roadway improvements

Lee has made transportation a significant priority in his second term. The transportation department released a plan to create toll lanes, or choices lanes, as they call them.

The budget proposal contains $3 billion for a new fund for road improvements. The administration will release a bill containing how the funds will be divided up and into what projects at a later date.

Traffic drives along I-24 and I-65 in Nashville, Tenn.
Traffic drives along I-24 and I-65 in Nashville, Tenn.  

Children's Services could get a $193.5 million budget increase

The additional funding for the troubled Tennessee Department of Children's Services comes as the department faces numerous issues with the conditions at its facilities, staffing woes and high case loads.

The increase includes funds to add 166 new beds and salary increases in an attempt to hire more case workers.

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$350 million for Memphis sports stadiums

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland asked and the Lee administration wants to deliver on funding for renovations at the FedExForum and Liberty Stadium.

The hope is that the funding can get a long-term commitment from the Grizzlies and help push the University of Memphis into a Power 5 conference for football.

FedExForum in September 2021.
FedExForum in September 2021.  

$370 million for new state parks, finishing trails

Lee mentioned conservation in his inauguration address last month. His administration is now proposing the creation of new state parks at the Middle Fork Bottoms, North Chickamauga, Devil's Backbone and Fiery Gizzard.

Some of the money would also help fund new natural areas at Hampton Creek, Shorts Springs and Stillhouse Hollow, and improvements to Natachez Trace Recreation Area, Scott's Gulf State Park and Savage Gulf.

The last portion of this funding would go toward finishing and expanding Cumberland Trail, Mountain Goat Trail, Tweetsie Trail and Wolf River Greenway.

$100 million for crisis pregnancy centers

Lee sits on the board of a Tennessee crisis pregnancy center and has long favored the anti-abortion groups, directing millions of dollars to the groups that are not licensed medical centers.  The funding would be earmarked through a Department of Finance and Administration grant program.

The $100 million ask is a marked increase in funding for Tennessee's centers and could be among the largest tax-dollar allocations in the country. In a review of state budgets in 2022, the Associated Press found nearly $89 million was allocated to crisis pregnancy centers in 12 states, up from $17 million in eight states a decade prior.

$1.1 billion for the new education funding formula

Last year, the Lee administration and lawmakers passed the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act, or TISA, an education funding formula to replace the current Basic Education Program. The new billion-dollar increase in funding will take effect next year.

$4.5 million to fund TBI forensic positions

The administration wants to continue funding 25 new forensic positions at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. The department received funding for the positions after the killing of Eliza Fletcher highlighted issues in the time it takes to process rape victim testing kits.

$200 million for TPAC move

The Lee administration proposes borrowing $200 million to cover moving the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, currently located in downtown Nashville. Last year, Nashville Mayor John Cooper suggested the arts center could move into his proposed East Bank development, as part of a revamp with a new Tennessee Titans stadium.

Adam Friedman is The Tennessean's state government and politics reporter. Reach him by email at afriedman@tennessean.com.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's budget: What's in $55.6 billion plan

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