published Thursday, May 20th, 2010

GOP plan cuts $16.1 million fish hatchery in House speaker's district

NASHVILLE -- Republican legislative leaders want to strip $25.5 million in one-time contingency funding for seven projects from the state budget, according to a schedule outlining Senate Republicans' ideas.

The list includes a $16.1 million fish hatchery that Gov. Phil Bredesen has proposed to build in the home district of House Speaker Kent Williams, an Elizabethton independent.

Other cuts outlined in the schedule include a $5 million appropriation for the U.S. Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and $4 million for demolition work at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

Gov. Bredesen's proposal, adopted by House Democratic leaders, states the projects would be funded only if Congress approves a six-month extension of boosted federal matching funds for state Medicaid programs.

Under the stimulus-related proposal, Tennessee would see $341 million in one-time additional funds for its TennCare program. That would free up state money to be plowed into other areas.

House Majority Leader Jason Mumpower, R-Kingsport, acknowledged that one of the schedules Republicans have discussed "eliminates most of what you might consider earmarked funding, and I think that most people are against earmarked funding in a year like this."

He said Republicans are zeroing in on earmarks that fund projects of a localized nature but are not as concerned with regional or statewide projects.

A copy of the schedule, obtained by a reporter, shows the programs being eliminated.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of College Grove later said "it doesn't make sense to me personally to lay off 850 state employees and build a $16 million fish hatchery. That just doesn't seem logical to me."

State employees' positions are paid for with recurring funds. The funds for the fish hatchery and other projects are from one-time money.

Rep. Williams had no immediate comment about the GOP cuts Wednesday but has defended the hatchery as a project that would generate jobs in his district and attract tourism dollars. He said Tuesday that Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials have told him a similar project in Texas generates 80,000 visitors annually.

"Why shouldn't East Tennessee get something?" he said, noting Senate Republicans plan to use $31.9 million if the stimulus funds are approved to help develop a proposed West Tennessee industrial "megasite" to attract economic development.

Lawmakers are considering a $28 billion budget "and we can't get $16 million for Upper East Tennessee?" Rep. Williams asked. "And we've been working on this project for a decade. It's going to be a tremendous asset for a small community. It's going to create tourism."

Deputy Gov. John Morgan said the boost in federal Medicaid matching dollars, which could be approved by the U.S. House on Friday, is funds that "have to be spent" within a relatively short period of time. "They can't be reserved. They (Republicans) may think that they can be."

WHAT WOULD BE CUT

Federal stimulus-funded projects that would be cut under a state GOP budget plan:

* $16.1 million fish hatchery for Carter County

* $5 million for U.S. Civil Rights Museum

* $4 million for demolition of building at University of Tennessee Health Science Center

* $175,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

* $29,000 for Secret Safe Place, a program that educates women about a state "safe haven" program that allows mothers to leave their newborns at designated places without fear of prosecution

* $80,000 for Crumley House, a brain injury rehabilitation center



WHAT WOULDN'T BE CUT

Other federal stimulus-funded projects that House and Senate plans would fund include:

* $100 million for community colleges to expand student capacity

* $31.9 million to make ready a West Tennessee industrial development "megasite"

* $51 million to provide incentives for two companies considering locating in Tennessee

Sources: House budget schedules this week

The administration believes the projects outlined "are appropriate or we wouldn't have recommended them," Mr. Morgan said.

House Democrats have accepted the projects in their own schedule, dated Tuesday.

"I didn't know," House Finance Committee Chairman Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said. "That's (the hatchery) an economic development project that's been studied and provides jobs and increases tourism in the whole of East Tennessee as I understand it."

He said, "I think that's a regional project."

As for the elimination of the $5 million for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Chairman Fitzhugh said, "National Civil Rights Museum, I think, speaks for itself. I don't think it's a local project. It's a National Civil Rights Museum."

Rep. Williams has been highly critical during the budget process of Senate Republicans and their speaker, Ron Ramsey, who is running for governor.

Meanwhile, many if not most House Republicans have been angry with Rep. Williams, a lifelong Republican who joined with Democrats last year to elect himself speaker over Mr. Mumpower.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Assistant Director Nat Johnson said the State Building Commission last year approved an option on 22 acres at a brownfield site in Carter County for the hatchery. Lawmakers last year approved $800,000 in planning funds.

He said the project would "include an aquatic education center. We see (it as) a real drawing point for the area ... It should produce a real tourism boom up there."

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Lawmakers point fingers on budget impasse

Article: Senate Democratic leader proposes budget compromise

Article: Speaker: Political games holding up state budget

about Andy Sher...

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, ...

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Gideon_Planish said...

Watchdog group criticizes plan for fish hatchery in Elizabethton http://www.timesnews.net/article.php?id=9015444 By Hank Hayes Published July 22nd, 2009

...

"...In the $29.3 billion state budget recently passed by Tennessee lawmakers, Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration filed a budget amendment that included $800,000 in non-recurring funds for pre-planning the fish hatchery.

Williams, a self-proclaimed “Carter County Republican” and a member of the Elizabethton-Carter County Hunting and Fishing Club, did not respond to a voice message left on his cell phone for this story.

Instead, he responded with an e-mail sent by Scotty Campbell, his legislative assistant.

In that e-mail, Williams noted the State Building Commission approved spending Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) funds to complete a conceptual design of the fish hatchery.

“Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, along with the state constitutional officers, and the commissioner of finance and administration are on the Building Commission with me and approved the conceptual design expenditure,” Williams said. “Members from Northeast Tennessee were supportive of the project including Lieutenant Governor Ramsey, (Republican House) Majority Leader (Jason) Mumpower and (state) Senator Rusty Crowe (who represents Carter County.) ... This helps tourism in our state by attracting fisherman from all over the country as well as benefiting our local sportsmen. This is a major gain for Northeast Tennessee as this hatchery will provide fish for TWRA use throughout the region. ... This hatchery is another way to stimulate economic growth by bringing people into Carter County and the entire Tri-Cities region.

“The current hatchery infrastructure in our state is 30 plus years old. We can’t curl up in a ball when revenue falls, we have to look toward and build toward the future.”

May 23, 2010 at 9:35 a.m.
Gideon_Planish said...

Conservation [TNGA Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey] http://teamronramsey.com/conservation

"As the owner of a lifetime sportsman license, I am very concerned that we preserve Tennessee’s beautiful wildlife areas for future hunters and fishermen. Conservation of the land is necessary so it can be enjoyed by the next generation of those who love the outdoors.

We must be good stewards of the land. That is why I sponsored Tennessee’s first brownfields law to promote redevelopment and reuse of contaminated industrial and commercial facilities. The redevelopment of these sites has become of major importance to Tennessee cities because it raises the property value of brownfield sites and surrounding properties, creating an incentive to invest in areas which were formerly avoided."

May 23, 2010 at 9:37 a.m.
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