Gov. Bill Lee proposes massive shift in state funding in response to the coronavirus pandemic
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Gov. Bill Lee’s revised budget is now in the hands of state lawmakers as Tennessee responds to the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor outlined his emergency budget yesterday during a press briefing. Top items include shifting $150 million into covid-19 related healthcare. Lee is also asking the legislature to deposit an additional $350 million into the state’s rainy day fund, bringing the fund total to $1.5 billion.
Reporter's asked Lee why he's placing more funds in savings at a time of crisis. The governer responded that the economic impact of the virus may last for months or even years, and he believes the sum is reasonable given the state’s $38 billion plus annual budget.
“A 1.5 billion dollar rainy day fund is a substantial amount ...but we need to have that size of a rainy day fund when we have that size of a budget and the opportunity that we may have a downturn that lasts longer than any of us hope.”
Lee went on to note the state does have other resources to draw on during the current crisis, including $1.3 billion dollars on reserve in the unemployment benefits account, and $750 million in state welfare funds.
To keep the state budget balanced, the governor has proposed eliminating items included in his original budget, including $250 million in mental health funding, half of the proposed $117 million for teacher raises, and a $40 million cut in professional privilege taxes.