From the desk of State Senator Steve Southerland:
(NASHVILLE) – On February 6, Governor Bill Lee delivered his fifth State of the State Address in a joint session of the General Assembly. In the speech titled ‘Tennessee: Leading the Nation,’ the Governor presented his $55.6 billion budget proposal and legislative priorities for 2023. Tennessee’s strong fiscal stewardship places the state in one of the strongest budgetary positions in history and allows for investments to ensure continued success. Lee’s address highlighted Tennessee’s success in attracting businesses, rural economic development and education.
Transportation and infrastructure emerged as the top budget item of the night. Gov. Lee proposed a $3 billion transportation modernization fund to alleviate urban congestion and fund rural road projects across the state.
Another big priority Lee highlighted during the speech is protecting Tennessee children by investing $190 million in the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) and improving adoption and foster care services. In addition, Lee is proposing $100 million for Crisis Pregnancy Provider Support Grants statewide, improving access to healthcare and providing information for expecting mothers. Pro-life lawmakers in the General Assembly have identified similar priorities and introduced a slate of legislation to solidify Tennessee’s commitment to protecting children not only before birth but throughout their childhood as well.
Governor Lee’s Fiscal Year 23-24 agenda items also include:
$150 million in annual tax relief for small businesses
$288 million for a one-time three-month sales tax holiday on food
$250 million for Tennessee’s record-high Rainy-Day Fund
Ensuring more than $2.8 billion of recurring revenue is allocated to one-time expenditures, allowing the return of these resources for review and budgeting next fiscal year
$1 billion for improving, expanding and building new Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT)
$350 million in additional funding to local education agencies through Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), including $125 million for teacher pay raises
$351 million to improve and create new state parks, trails and greenways
$80 million for environmental cleanup across the state
$33 million to add 100 highway patrol troopers, support staff and 25 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Forensic Services staff
$30 million addition to the TN Law Enforcement Hiring, Training and Recruitment Program (Year 2)
$50 million expansion of the Violent Crime Intervention Fund
$300M of additional federal funds to extend TennCare coverage
A major announcement made by Gov. Lee during the State of the State was that Tennessee has claimed initial returns from the first-of-its-kind TennCare Medicaid waiver agreement of more than $300 million. These savings are the result of Tennessee’s conservative fiscal management and will be reinvested into TennCare to extend coverage to more citizens in need with no additional cost to taxpayers. Lee is proposing to strengthen postpartum and infant care with the recognized savings.
Tennessee has now been operating under TennCare III for two years. Since that time, the state has made notable and unprecedented investments into TennCare, including:
Providing a comprehensive dental benefit for adults for the first time in Tennessee history;
Serving thousands of additional people with intellectual and developmental disabilities;
Providing 12 months of postpartum coverage to mothers through a pilot program;
Workforce investments in behavioral health, home and community-based care, and dental services; and
Additional investments in public hospitals.
Lee is proposing to use the shared savings to enhance benefits and serve 25,000 additional Tennesseans with a focus on babies, children, pregnant women and parents. These efforts include:
Making our post-partum coverage extension for women on TennCare permanent;
Expanding eligibility for pregnant women and providing lactation services and supports to new mothers
Expanding eligibility for parents and caretakers of children; and
Providing one year of continuous enrollment for children.
In the coming weeks and months, the General Assembly will review Governor Lee’s budget proposal and make its own budget recommendations, which will include ways to reinvest the shared savings from the Medicaid waiver.
Unclaimed Funds Letters
The Unclaimed Property Division in the Treasury Department receives cash from various types of accounts and securities from companies for owners that the company is unable to locate. This division then attempts to locate and return the lost property to the rightful owner. Many rightful owners are no longer living and their heirs are entitled to claim the property. Each year, I request a list of these individuals for my senate district and I mail these property owners information about how to claim their funds. If you see a letter from me in the mail about your unclaimed funds, please follow the instructions in the letter to claim them.
Thank you for reading this column! Please contact my office to share your thoughts about any legislation. My office can be reached by phone at: (800) 449-8366, extension: 13851 or by e-mail at: email@example.com. Thank you for the honor to serve you in state government and God bless!