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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Tennessee legislative session nearing conclusion

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Associated Press,Tennessee,Budgets and Deficits,Bill Haslam

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Legislative leaders are hoping to adopt Tennessee's annual spending plan as early as this week, clearing the way to the conclusion of the legislative session.

But that assumes that the Republican-controlled House and Senate can find quick agreement over budget cuts proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam to close a funding gap created by flagging tax revenues.

Haslam has said planned increases in higher education funding and pay raises for teachers and state employees will have to be abandoned to balance the books.

Some lawmakers have grumbled that those cuts are difficult to make in an election year.

"The budget is the critical piece," said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga. "Then everything else falls into place, and should fall into place quickly."

Some of the major bills still pending before lawmakers include Haslam's limited school voucher proposal and his effort to limit the sales cold and allergy medicines used to make meth.

Lawmakers are also trying to find a compromise on Common Core education standards and related testing.

McCormick said he is still polling his GOP colleagues about whether they want to schedule a return in a few weeks to consider overturning any vetoes from Haslam.

It only takes a majority in each chamber to override a veto by the governor, but lawmakers wouldn't have a chance to consider turning back a veto if they have adjourned for the year.

But lawmakers would still be covered by campaign fundraising ban until they adjourn, which may make some incumbents reluctant to wait for a veto override session.

"I'm asking people what they want to do along those lines," McCormick said. "And hopefully we'll have a good count by [this] week to see if that's the will of the body."

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