Tennessee House OKs $34.9 billion budget, sends it to Gov. Haslam

In this Feb. 11, 2016, photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam answers questions about his priorities for 2016 during an interview in Nashville.

NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee House today gave final approval to the state's nearly $35 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2015, sending the measure on to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

Representatives voted 87-7 for the budget bill. Senators approved it earlier today on a 32-1 vote.

The legislation, which Haslam had a large hand in shaping and is expected to sign, provides new $57.8 million in funding for the state's education funding formula as well as $104 million for teacher pay raises.

Another provisions provides some $27 million to add a 12th month of insurance for teachers. State employees and higher education workers are slated for pay increases as well.

In a state flush with tax collections, other provisions devote one-time money to more than a half billion dollars worth of capital projects, including $35.9 million to put UTC's old Lupton Library to new uses as well as well as renovate portions of the Chattanooga university's Fine Arts Center.

It also provides $50 million more for the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents' funding formula.

Other provisions include restoring prior cuts to TennCare providers' reimbursements and hiring a dozen new Tennessee Highway Patrol officers.

But critics, largely Democrats, charged the budget doesn't far enough with Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, accusing majority Republicans of trying to hog all the "pork" for a select few and shortchanging many of their own members.

But Republicans defended spending with Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, noting one of the largest projects, the UTC renovations, coming in the district of Rep. JoAnne Favors, a Chattanooga Democrats.

Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said, "When folks at home ask you what's the most important thing you do each year, I hope you tell them the budget."

He noted the state's budget is the "well spring" for state government activities in areas ranging from education to healthcare.

"I like to say it focuses on the four 'Es' of Tennessee: employment, education, economic opportunity and enforcement of the law," Norris said.