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An aerial view of Chattanooga State Community College in Chattanooga in shown in this 2012 staff file photo. / Staff file photo

NASHVILLE — A proposed $21.9 million new advanced manufacturing building for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) at Chattanooga State has found a home in Gov. Bill Lee's recommended Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget.

Republican Lee included the project in the $40.82 billion budget he unveiled to the General Assembly Monday night.

It's one of just four higher capital projects included in the governor's budget plan with a total cost of $159 million.

"It's the Applied Manufacturing and Engineering Building at Chattanooga State. It's in partnership with the TCAT," said Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. "That building, when it went through our selection process, the reason it fared so well is it's clearly linked with the workforce."

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Gov. Bill Lee speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the McMinn Higher Education Center on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019 in Athens, Tenn. The new facility will include the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Athens, Cleveland State Community College, and the McMinn County UT Extension Institute of Agriculture. / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter

He said the "most important thing we [use to] evaluate proposals now is [their] direct linkages with employers."

Lee is also recommending another $139.3 million in funding for higher education with $39.3 million for salaries and $38 million in funds for institutions' performance toward graduating students in the University of Tennessee, Tennessee Board of Regents and the state's five independently governing four-year universities.

That allows public colleges and universities to keep tuition hikes relatively low compared to national rates of higher education inflation.

"Our review of the budget indicates this is the most significant recurring investment in in Tennessee higher education on record," Krause said. "The governor fully funds the outcomes-based funding formula. He also provides support to our medical schools we have not had. And really substantial support to our agricultural extension operation. It's a pretty incredible budget."

Lee is also recommending $50 million in recurring funding for higher education maintenance operations.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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