File Photo - Gov. Phil Bredesen
NASHVILLE — Gov. Phil Bredesen told lawmakers Monday that state taxpayers “expect us to live within our means” as he fleshed out plans to slash nearly a half billion dollars from the state budget.
“We need to act decisively and conservatively,” Gov. Bredesen said. “This is not a time for a lack of resolve; this is not a time for wishful thinking.”
Declaring that the economy is in a recession with no clear sign the nation has hit bottom, Gov. Bredesen outlined $468 million in cuts to his proposed $27.88 billion budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year. The cuts of include slashing $80 million from a $100 million TennCare program that helps some higher income Tennesseans deal with expensive medical bills that exceed their ability to pay.
Gov. Bredesen announced few details on a proposed voluntary buyout program designed to encourage 2,011 state employees to leave rather than face layoffs. The state expects to begin making offers on voluntary buyouts for selection employees by June 6, he said.
On his way to the House chamber to deliver his speech, Gov. Bredesen was greeted by protesters from groups including the Tennesseans for Fair Taxation and the Tennessee Health Care Campaign.
Donning rain coats and other gear, the groups urged Gov. Bredesen to tap the Rainy Day fund and to close off corporate tax loopholes they say could provide raise $120 million to $250 million in new revenue.
Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, a Finance Committee member, said “I wasn’t shocked by anything he proposed. I think we were kind of anticipating the employee severance package. We don’t know the details. ... We won’t know the details until we adjourn.”
For complete coverage see tomorrow’s Times Free Press.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...