published Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Tennessee: Lawmakers OK $29.6B budget, send it to governor; UTC library funding approved

  • photo
    Rep. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, rights, gets some pizza for dinner from a box on the desks of Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer, left, and Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, center, after the food was delivered to the House chamber in Nashville as debate went into the night Wednesday. Members of both the Senate and the House have approved a $29.6 billion budget and has sent it to Gov. Phil Bredesen. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

By ERIK SCHELZIG and LUCAS L. JOHNSON II

NASHVILLE — The House and Senate agreed Wednesday on a $29.6 billion Tennessee spending plan and sent the budget measure for the governor’s consideration.

The House voted 85-12 on the measure, while the Senate agreed 32-1. The budget makes about 10 percent in spending cuts, including layoffs of more than 700 state employees.

The plan for the budget year that begins July 1 includes $2.2 billion in federal stimulus money to defray the need for even deeper spending cuts.

The plan includes $47.5 million for a new University of Tennessee at Chattanooga library.

The final Senate vote on the budget measure was held just before midnight, the result of two days of extensive — and sometimes heated — closed-door negotiations among leaders of both parties.

Senate Republicans had earlier proposed deeper budget cuts and rejecting bonds to pay for buildings on state college campuses and bridge projects. But House Democrats and a groups of Republicans headed by Speaker Kent Williams, R-Elizabethton, balked at that approach and restored several of those cuts.

The proposal passed Wednesday includes issuing bonds for all scheduled higher education projects, and staggering bridge bonds into $87 million increments over each of the coming four years. Democrats had previously wanted to bond all $350 million at once.

“With the exception of the staggering of the bonds, we got everything we wanted,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory.

House Majority Leader Jason Mumpower said the proposal includes stricter spending controls in the event of a worsening economy, but the Bristol Republican acknowledged that the budget includes more bonds than he would have preferred.

“It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a responsible plan in the end,” he said.

Rep. Brian Kelsey was among 12 Republicans and one Democrat who cast their votes against the bill.

“Just like the federal government, we’re spending money today and we’re leaving it to our children to pay for it tomorrow,” said Kelsey, R-Germantown.

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