Haslam Tells Rotary Club State Finances Much Better Off Than Most

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Governor Bill Haslam told members of the Chattanooga Rotary Club on Thursday that the state's finances are much better off than most states.

"We came out of this bad recession in very good shape," he said in the noon speech at the Convention Center.

Governor Haslam said the state is using the opportunity to boost education as well as shore up the rainy day fund. He said Tennessee is making the second-highest education spending increase among the states, including fully funding the Better Education Program formula.

He said $51 million is designed for an improvement in testing programs and $34 million for a variety of school capital needs. He said the latter expenditures may include some security items.

The speaker said a new tenure system is working well, and he said stricter teacher evaluations have led many low-performing teachers to leave the system while retaining high-performing ones.

On education in Tennessee, he said, "We've been ranked too low for too long."

He said education was a prime consideration for the head of an international firm considering locating in Tennessee.

To boost adult education, he said the state is supporting an affordable online course offering that allows an adult student to see at what level he or she tests out. There would be online training needed above that level.

Governor Haslam said his admnistration is "chipping away" at the Hall income tax on dividends and interest, but he said it may not go completely away. He said it yields $300 million per year to the state coffers and some municipalities rely heavily on it.

He said the state is investing $8 million in a statewide tourism advertising campaign that he said should pay big dividends through spending by additional visitors.

He told the club members that gun control is a difficult issue still under debate and discussion. He said mental health issues go right along with that topic.

The governor said the Affordable Health Care Act may cost the state $200 million if only the minimum coverage is provided. He said if the state opts for the minimum, then that will leave hospitals with high charity loads like Erlanger in a financial hole. He said a decision on that issue should come in a couple of months.


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