Sun. May 19th, 2024

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee proposes $55.6 billion state investment in roads, DCS, Memphis stadium upgrades and more

By Bria Bolden and Rose Johnson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee proposed $55.6 billion budget that includes targeted financing for modernizing transportation, ensuring economic and educational opportunity, preserving our natural resources, protecting children, strengthening families, and other initiatives on Monday night by in his annual State of The State address.

“Tennessee is leading the nation as a guiding light for opportunity, security and freedom,” said Lee. “I’m proud to propose a budget and strategic policies that ensure our state continues to be a shining example for educational opportunity, strong families, innovation and economic prosperity.”

“Tonight standing on the shoulders who came before us, I say with great pride that Tennessee is leading the nation and the state of our beloved state is prosperous, hopeful and unrivaled,” said Lee.

 

Lee is proposing $3.3 billion for upgrades to roads, bridges and more, including a plan for choice lanes.

But Democrats say that won’t help drivers stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

In a rebuttal speech, Democrat House Minority Leader Representative Karen Camper says they want improvements for public transportation too.

“This isn’t about roadside photo ops and ribbon cuttings, this is about acknowledging the rapid growth in parts of our state and planning for our future,” said Camper.

Lawmakers on both sides want to turn things around for children in foster care at the Division of Children Services after an audit revealed alarming failures within the system.

“We are also proposing more than $190 million in additional resources to support the mission of DCS and provide for the safety and well-being on Tennessee children,” said Lee.

The governor also says he wants pay raises for caseworkers.

When it comes to fighting crime, Lee is asking lawmakers for almost $673 million.

“We must continue to have a voice in the national security when the safety of Tennesseans is at stake,” said Lee.

Some of that includes $50 million for expanding grant funding for local law enforcement through the state’s Violent Crime Intervention Fund and $33.25 million to hire 100 highway patrol troopers and more forensic staff at the TBI.

Camper adds Democrats want to fund police reform in the wake of the brutal police beating of Tyre Nichols.

“Police work and public safety is not an easy job, but high moral standards and accountability must win every day,” said Representative Camper.

The governor is also looking for $1.1 billion for his education formula and almost $329 million for upgrades and accessibility to outdoor spaces and state parks.

Governor Lee also announced Monday, $350 million for upgrades to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium and FedExForum.

You may remember, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland asked the state to put up that exact amount for $684 million in stadium upgrades. That funding still needs to be approved by state lawmakers.

Republican House Leader Cameron Sexton told Action News 5 he supports the upgrades.

Among the highlights of Gov. Lee’s FY23-24 agenda are:

• Transportation & Infrastructure Modernization

• Economic Opportunity & Tax Relief

• Skilled Workforce

• Strong & Healthy Families

• Protecting Tennessee’s Children

• Great Schools

• Safe Neighborhoods

• Brighter Future

• Asset Management

Key highlights are noted below, and the full speech as prepared for delivery can be found here. A Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget overview can be found here.

Tennessee Senate Democratic leaders issued a statement following Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address, which took place tonight.

We are glad to see an emphasis on tax cuts for small business owners, the conservation of our natural resources, and some targeted investments in maternity care, children and state workers. But most of the new money in this budget is long overdue. They’re putting out fires that have been growing for a decade. State government has to break its bad habit of waiting until a crisis emerges to make meaningful changes. Our caucus stands ready to work with our colleagues to do the hard work of planning for our shared future.

Sen. Raumesh Akbari, Senate minority leader

Instead of leading our state into the 21st century by investing in people and working families, Tennessee is only maintaining the status quo. We are not leading the nation as long as we have abused children sleeping on the floors of state office buildings. We’re not leading the nation if our families don’t have access to affordable housing, health coverage or childcare. This budget does some nice things, but with this much funding available, Tennesseans deserve more than business as usual. If we want to lead the nation, let’s get to work on real investments for our people, families and businesses.

Sen. London Lamar, Senate Democratic caucus chairwoman

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