Tennessee Governor Bill Lee marked the close of the 2022 legislative session Friday, which included the passage of his $52.8 billion budget and full agenda as outlined during his State of the State address in February.
“Tennessee is America at Its Best, and we’ve made strategic investments to cut taxes, strengthen infrastructure and invest in education at every level to prepare our state for future growth,” Governor Lee said in a statement. “I thank Leader Johnson and Leader Lamberth for carrying key legislation, and commend the General Assembly for passing measures that will benefit Tennesseans and continue our state’s reputation for conservative fiscal management.”
Tennessee is America at Its Best, & we’ve made strategic investments to cut taxes, strengthen infrastructure & invest in education at every level to prepare our state for future growth.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) April 29, 2022
One substantial and recent change from Lee’s original agenda includes the 30-day suspension of state and local grocery sales tax, which the governor proposed in March due to surging inflation nationwide.
Lee’s agenda included the most substantive reform to education funding in more than 30 years, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), according to the governor’s office. The student-centered plan dedicates $1 billion in additional recurring funding to improve public education for every child in Tennessee, including a modernized approach that funds each student based on their individual needs.
The slate of budget and legislative priorities also included significant investments in higher education, proven crime prevention, and improving transportation infrastructure, the governor’s office notes.
Highlights from Lee’s agenda include the following:
- $1 billion investment in new, annual recurring education funding
- Through the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), replaced the 30-year-old BEP funding formula with a student-centered approach to public education
- $500 million to make CTE improvements in all middle and high schools
- Ensures parents know what materials are available to students in their libraries
- Makes computer science and coding available to every high school student in Tennessee
- $124.7 million to provide a well-deserved increase into the teacher salary pool
- $16 million recurring and $16 million nonrecurring to the Charter Schools Facility Fund to support the operation of high-quality charter schools
- $88.6 million in dedicated lottery funds to increase the 4-year HOPE Award to $4,500—5,700 per student, per year, and the 2-year HOPE Award to $3,200 per student, per year
- $90 million to fully fund the higher education outcomes-based formula
- $200 million for TCAT infrastructure investments to help double the skilled workforce by 2026
- $6 million to establish the Institute of American Civics at the University of Tennessee
Safe and Secure Tennessee
- Adds 100 Highway Patrol Troopers 100% funded by the state
- Creation of a Multi-Agency Law Enforcement Training Academy
- Creation of a $100 million Violent Crime Intervention Fund for law enforcement agencies across the state to invest in evidence-based programming and resources
- Expansion of state funding for law enforcement basic training and increasing the frequency of training for new recruits
- Directs the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to create a plan so every house of worship in Tennessee can receive high-quality safety training
- Strengthens laws around human trafficking
Supporting Tennessee Families
- Expanding funding for relative caregiver placements for children in foster care
- Establishing a childcare support program for all foster families, regardless of their DHS eligibility
- Expanding TennCare’s Health Starts Initiative to support maternal health and holistic care for mothers and children
Modernizing Tennessee Infrastructure
- Additional $100 million for the IMPROVE Act to ensure progress on key projects
- $519 million toward road infrastructure projects to support economic development projects, as well as mobility in our fastest-growing counties.
- Rainy-Day Fund increased to $1.8 billion, up from $1.55 billion
- 30-day suspension of state and local grocery sales tax to provide direct financial relief to Tennesseans
- Cuts CDL licensing red tape to ease supply chain and transportation challenges
- $83 million to reimburse public hospitals for uncompensated care, primarily in rural communities
- $55 million to increase access to home and community-based services via the Medicaid Pathways to Independence program
- $25.5 million to provide adult dental benefits for 610,000 Tennesseans eligible for TennCare
- $11.8 million toward a multiyear commitment to recruit and retain dental providers, as well as provide much-needed dental care for prosthodontic services
- $10 million toward the goal of attracting over 150 new primary care residents
- $7 million for substance abuse clinical treatment and addiction recovery programs
- $40 million to invest in environmental cleanup, including National Priority List sites
- $28 million to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog at State Parks
- $25 million for West TN River Basin projects
- $2.541 billion for higher education and general government capital improvements over the next several years
- $214.8 million for capital maintenance, ensuring deferred maintenance is addressed within current capital assets
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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network.