NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state Senate is ready to vote on a $32.4 billion spending plan for the budget year beginning in July.
The Senate Finance Committee voted 9-2 on Wednesday to advance the budget plan to a full Senate vote. The plan removes previously planned salary increases for teachers and state employees to make up for flagging state revenue collections.
Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis argued that the spending cuts would not have to be as deep if officials were willing to tap the more than $1.7 billion stored in various reserve funds.
The House version of the budget is also awaiting a floor vote.
Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said he planned to present an amendment to the budget that seeks to give a $500 bonus to all teachers and state employees who have at least three years of service, and a 1 percent pay increase for all teachers and state employees next year, contingent upon state revenue being available to pay for it.
Hill estimated the bonuses would cost about $50 million and the pay hike would be about $40 million. He said his proposal requires no new spending, but that the money will come from a combination of reserves and delayed repairs, such as $7 million planned for work on the tunnel that connects the Tennessee Capitol and the Legislative Plaza.
"We're just moving money around," said Hill, who has also proposed legislation to prevent standardized test scores from being tied to teacher licensing. "We need to do all that we can to support our teachers and our state employees."
Lawmakers are required by the state constitution to pass a balanced budget each year.