Tennessee House passes its version of state's $38.5 billion budget

The Tennessee House of Representatives meets on the opening day of the legislative session Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee House today laid down its marker on the state's $38.5 billion budget, approving its version of the state's annual spending plan as senators continue to working on the document in committee.

The appropriations act was approved 95-1.

It largely reflects what Republican Gov. Bill Lee proposed back in March in his budget proposal, such as a 2 percent pay raise for teachers and a $50 million state cash grant for Volkwagen's planned $800 million electric vehicle plant in Chattanooga and subsequent additions.

But in a political in-your-face approach to Senate majority Republicans, House Speaker Glen Casada and his GOP-led House's plan also adopts a number of the lower chamber's priorities despite no agreement yet from the Senate.

That includes a $27.3 million bill to create a Katie Beckett waiver program in Tennessee for severely disabled children whose parents' higher incomes make them ineligible for TennCare, the state's Medicaid program.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and other Senate leaders, have yet to agree to that. His committee is meeting today.

In a pep talk Tuesday to fellow GOP Caucus members, Casada, who was elected speaker promising a more active stance in areas such as budgeting, said that "we've talked about being leaders in the state. We've felt like maybe the Senate dictated a lot to the Senate in the past. Those days are over as well."

Citing the ongoing behind-the-scenes budget negotiations between the House and Senate, Casada said, "we just see things different. Like Katie Beckett" to applause from caucus members.

"We're going to move forward on Katie Beckett - and a few other things," Casada said. "And we're going to pass our budget and when the Senate gets around to working - and they catch up to us, they will pass a budget. And we'll sit down with your leadership team, and I have my full faith in them."