Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen speaks with Times Free Press reporters during a news conference at the Tennessee State Capitol Building on Wednesday. Governor Bredesen spoke about changes to the state's budget as well as possible adjustments for Tennessee Valley Authority and higher education.
NASHVILLE — Gov. Phil Bredesen calls for laying off as many as 1,051 state workers, according to a version of the administration’s proposed changes to the 2009-2010 budget, but one lawmaker said that figure already has changed and likely will change again.
Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville, chairman of the House Budget Subcommittee, said because the administration has agreed to restore recurring funding for children’s services, that should save 361 jobs that had been scheduled to be cut over the next year.
“We’re down to about 691 — and there’s a lot of concern about the mental health hospitals, the regional mental health institutes,” Rep. Tindell said. “I think over 200 positions are part of that downsizing, and we (the General Assembly) haven’t ... agreed to that.”
He said protecting the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities from cuts is “one of the most undecided issues remaining.”
For now, the Bredesen administration is not publicly commenting on the major budget revision expected to be presented this morning to the Senate Finance Committee and later today to the House Finance Committee.
A copy of an overview of the administration’s “preliminary draft,” dated last week, refers to “severance” pay for 1,051 positions.
But the same overview notes put $18.3 million in recurring funding back in the Department of Children’s Services, restoring items such as the jobs and services of 154 full-time workers at group homes as well restoring youth development center beds and 97 accompanying jobs.
The administration amendment also discusses adding $10 million to restore cuts to mental health community services.
“That’s good, but the question is are institutes going to be in a strong enough position to take care of the demand they might encounter,” Rep. Tindell said.
He said if workers at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute and the other four institutes are restored, the number of layoffs may be around 450 or so in general government.
The administration also is proposing to cut about 700 or so unfilled positions.
Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he was expecting to be briefed on the administration’s proposed budget amendment later Tuesday.
Gov. Bredesen’s draft amendment, outlined to some lawmakers on Tuesday, takes into account continued shortfalls since the governor presented his original budget to lawmakers on March 23.
A copy of the draft proposal was obtained by the Times Free Press late Tuesday afternoon.
In its draft, the administration also anticipates $38 million in new state revenue, including $21 million from a proposal that would result in state administration of business gross receipts taxes, which now are handled by county clerks. The clerks would not lose their administrative fees under the plan. The administration figures it can do a better job collecting the money in many smaller counties that do not have the resources of the state revenue department.
The state originally anticipated a revenue shortfall of about $1 billion but that since has grown by an estimated $200 million.
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, ...