NASHVILLE - With a nudge from Gov. Phil Bredesen, House Speaker Kent Williams and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey met today and appear to have settled their differences regarding the state's budget.
"He got us back to the negotiating table, with his comments, and I appreciate him for that," Rep. Williams said of tentative deal on the $28 billion 2010-2011 budget.
Earlier in the day, Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker confirmed that that Gov. Bredesen, a Democrat, "did express some frustration that the legislature has yet to conclude its business."
"Compared to the very serious problems other states are facing, our remaining budget issues aren't insurmountable," she said.
"I just felt like it's time we have to make an agreement and get out of here and save the taxpayers some dollars," Rep. Williams said. "We don't need to be down here any longer. We've been here too long already."
Rep. Williams, an Elizabethton independent, said in the end he agreed to give up on a $16.1 million fish hatchery in his district.
Led by Lt. Gov. Ramsey, the Senate speaker who is running for governor, Senate Republicans had attacked the hatchery as "pork barrel" spending.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, appear to have agreed to restore funding for an infant mortality program that they cut. Rep. Williams had accused Republicans of being "hypocritical" for cutting the funding the program while laying claim to pro-life views.
House Budget Subcommittee members are expected to consider the compromise shortly.
For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.