In his final State of the State address to the General Assembly, Governor Bill Haslam on Monday evening challenged all Tennesseans to lead the nation in creating high-quality jobs, improving the education of our students, and providing the most efficient and effective state government services.
“Seven years ago we raised our expectations.
We became the kind of leaders who didn’t just talk about cutting taxes and enhancing services, we actually did lower taxes while growing our economy and providing access to high quality education. We cannot lose the momentum we have worked so hard to build,” he said.
Governor Haslam reflected on the past seven years, saying he has been working with the General Assembly to create a strong commitment to jobs, education and conservative fiscal policy that has resulted in significant accomplishments:
- Lowest unemployment rates in the state’s history and a job growth rate greater than 17 percent, with nearly 400,000 net new private sector jobs created;
- The fastest-improving students in the nation, across math, reading and science, and the highest high school graduation rates the state has ever seen;
- With the proposed Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget, nearly $1.5 billion invested into K-12 education, with $500 million going to teacher salaries;
- More than $500 million in tax cuts to Tennesseans, including a 30 percent cut on groceries;
- A cut in year-to-year spending by more than a half billion dollars; and
- Tripling the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
He also said all Tennesseans have access to college free of tuition and mandatory fees through Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, the landmark programs Haslam launched in 2014 and 2017, respectively. To help ensure those students complete college and enter the workforce with degrees or certificates, Haslam this evening announced the Complete to Compete initiative, which includes the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2018, restructuring financial aid requirements for Promise and HOPE scholarships to keep students on track for on-time completion, and requiring community colleges to implement structured, ready-made schedules for all incoming full-time students based on their academic program.
Governor Haslam also announced plans to bring needed reforms to the state's juvenile justice system that he said will strengthen families and communities while promoting public safety and ensuring a responsible and effective use of limited resources. The governor’s legislation follows recommendations from a task force on juvenile justice led by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris.
Last week, Governor Haslam announced TN Together, a comprehensive plan to end the opioid crisis that focuses on prevention, treatment and law enforcement. The governor’s FY 2018-19 budget includes nearly $15 million in new state funds ($30 million total) for TN Together.
The governor’s proposed $37.5 billion budget continues his focus on jobs, education, and efficient and effective government.
Notable budget highlights investments include:
- More than $200 million in new state funding for K-12 education, including additional funds for teacher compensation;
- Nearly $100 million for higher education initiatives;
- $128 million for job growth investments, including programs that target rural communities; and
- Increases to bring the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $850 million.
The governor’s budget proposal reduces state spending overall by more than $200 million, continuing his focus on efficient and effective government, it was stated.
His office said over his tenure, annual state budget growth "is only 2 percent, by far the lowest growth rate of any administration over the past 40 years."
Click here for Governor Haslam's full remarks.
Click here and here for the budget documents.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally made said, following Governor Haslam's State of the State address:
"Governor Haslam gave an outstanding final state of the state address tonight worthy of his successful tenure as governor. It was an important look back at the work that's been accomplished but also a forward-looking speech on the issues we will tackle this year. Governor Haslam outlined with great precision the promises that have been made by this unified Republican government and how those promised have been kept.
"The opioid crisis is the true scourge of our time. I am proud the governor has chosen to make this fight his own. The General Assembly will be working hard with the administration to ensure that we treat those suffering through addiction, prevent addiction in the future and enforce the law against those facilitating the opioid epidemic.
"Once again, Governor Haslam's budget places priorities where they need to be. We are keeping our budget balanced, continuing our commitment to education and advancing the battle against opioid addiction. I'm looking forward to adding legislative input to this vision so that together we can continue to make Tennessee the best state in the nation to live, work and family."