Roads, parks, tax breaks: A look at Tenn. Gov. Bill Lee’s budget

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Monday unveiled a $55.6 billion state budget proposal stocked with cash for roads, state parks, tax cuts for businesses, state employee pay boosts and more.

The plan put forth by Lee also fuels a number of areas to benefit health coverage for low-income women and children, in addition to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, as he and fellow Republicans sort through scrutiny over one of the country’s strictest abortion bans.

The plan is buoyed by better-than-expected revenues and comes in at $618.6 million less than the current budget, which was boosted by extra federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is a look at some specifics of the spending blueprint, which goes to the Republican-supermajority Legislature for its consideration:

Business, labor, infrastructure

Roads: $3 billion from the general fund into a transportation fund for road projects statewide; $300 million for the local highway program.

Tax cuts: $54 million annually and $360 million in one-time money worth of tax cuts and other tax changes; includes three-month grocery sales tax holiday on food; creates exemptions or reductions to several business taxes, largely aimed at small businesses; creates a paid family leave credit against franchise and excise taxes.

Memphis sports facilities: $350 million for improvements at FedEx Forum and Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis.

Performing arts: $200 million to help relocate the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville.

Economic development grants: $103 million, including $18 million annually, for the Jobs4TN program to recruit new businesses and support workforce training, marketing and education.

Nuclear power: $50 million to invest further in nuclear energy.

Rural grants: $45 million in grants to aid various rural development initiatives.

Youth work: $15 million summer work pilot program to connect youth and young adults with paid work experiences and career exploration.

Pay, reserves, pensions

Pay boosts: $165 million for state employee marketing adjustments; $92.6 million for a 5% increase to the employee pay fund for executive branch agencies; $20.7 million for pay increases for other public employees; $35.7 million to double the state’s 401k match for first $50 in employee contributions.

Juneteenth: $692,000 to make Juneteenth a state holiday.

Rainy day fund: $250 million to add to the state’s reserves.

Pensions: $550 million to pay into unfunded liabilities of pension programs.

Health and abortion

Crisis Pregnancy Centers: $100 million in grants for crisis pregnancy centers, typically religiously affiliated nonprofits that counsel clients against having an abortion as part of their free but limited services.

Tenncare eligibility: $13.5 million annually to increase TennCare parental eligibility to 100% of the federal poverty level; $5.1 million annually to increase the pregnancy benefit eligibility to 250% of the federal poverty level; $4.7 million annually to continue the one-year postpartum coverage permanently; $1 million to cover lactation consultations.

Intellectual and developmental disabilities: $22 million annually for children in longer-term placements unable to be put in traditional foster care; $15 million annually for children with disabilities in hospitals to be stepped down to a lesser level of care.

Children’s services: $193.5 million for various initiatives to increase bed capacity by 166; increase foster and provider rates; give case managers salary adjustments; improve aging information systems; salary increases at a secured facility for youth offenders; and more.

Environment and parks: $450 million for state parks and natural areas; introduces four new state parks and three new natural areas and improvements to other parks and trails, and $82.7 million for brownfields.


Teacher salaries: $125 million for teacher pay increases through $350 million in cost increases in the new school funding formula.

Community and technical colleges: $952.9 million for replacement campuses, new campus locations, new buildings and maintenance at Tennessee Community and Technical Colleges.

Law enforcement 

Troopers: $28.7 million to add 142 new Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper positions.

Schools: $24.7 million for 122 Department of Homeland Security agents to focus on school safety; $20 million for school safety improvement grants.

Communications: $357 million for expansions to Tennessee’s law enforcement communications network.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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