Haslam budget amendment includes extra $30 million for teacher insurance

photo Bill Haslam

How Haslam is proposing the money be spent:

* $120 million to fund the state's commitment to a new $160 million Tennessee State Museum, $40 million of which will be raised through private funds * $50 million for economic development projects bringing more high-quality jobs to Tennessee * $40 million to complete renovations of the Cordell Hull building * $36.5 million for the Rainy Day Fund in addition to the $36.5 million proposed in the original budget bringing the total reserve to 4.5 percent of state revenues * $12 million for maintenance and improvements to higher education facilities across the state * $5 million to fund new equipment in our Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology to meet job training demands across the state * $1.9 million for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to fund adolescent residential alcohol and drug treatment grants

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee schools would get an additional $30 million to increase state funding of health insurance for teachers under the governor's just-unveiled amendment to his proposed Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budget.

Finance Commissioner Larry Martin told Senate Finance Committee members the money comes from $30 million more than anticipated in recurring state revenues.

The additional money for public K-12 education comes after school boards in Hamilton County and six nearby counties voted this month to sue the state over what they contend is inadequate funding for the state's Basic Education Program funding formula.

State government's share of health insurance funding is part of the criticisms lodged by the systems with board members saying Tennessee funds only 10 months of coverage while locals bear the entire load for the remaining two months.

In response to questions from Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, Martin said the additional $30 million would cover an eleventh month. The state pays 45 percent of the insurance costs.

In a statement, Haslam said his budget proposal "continues our administration's ongoing commitment to quality education in Tennessee. All of our additional recurring money is going to fund K-12 education in addition to the $144 million from our original budget proposal. We are also making significant investments in higher education."

The $144 million in his original budget included $100 million for teacher salaries and $44 million for inflationary increases in the Basic Education Program formula.

Officials say the additional $30 million is the result of state franchise and excise tax collections exceeding expectations due to "an unusual one-time event."

That, along with other revenue collections and program savings, has resulted in $300 million more than anticipated in one-time funds.

The proposal also restores full funding to the TennCare Bureau for level two case management services involving mental health. Nearly half of the funding, $5.2 million, is included as recurring dollars while the rest of the funding is designated as non-recurring. The budget amendment is scheduled to be filed next Tuesday, April 7.