Nashville Council passes a new budget, but state lawmakers still at odds over spending plan

Jun 17, 2020

Credit capitol.tn.gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  Lawmakers at the state and local level are struggling to balance budgets pushed deep into the red by the pandemic.

After a marathon session, the Nashville City Council early Tuesday morning approved a new Metro budget that includes a 34 percent property tax increase. The council debated four different budget proposals before settling on a plan by Councilman Bob Mendes.

The city’s tax collections are off hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to business closures and shelter at home orders. The Mendes budget puts the city back in the black while also providing additional funds for Metro Schools and police.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have so far failed to agree on a budget for the fiscal year that begins in less than two weeks.

The Tennessee House and Senate agree drastic cuts to state expenditures are needed. But the two chambers haven’t yet agreed on how to make that happen.

Among the points of contention, the state Senate wants to stretch budget cuts out over three years to lessen the pain. The House wants the cuts to extend over just two years.

Another difference, the Senate wants to send $200 million to local governments to cover their coronavirus expenditures. The House wants to give Tennesseans a $100 million sales tax holiday.

Lawmakers do agree on some spending cuts. Both budget plans eliminate previously approved raises for teachers and some other state workers. Both also eliminate TennCare funding for new-mother postpartum care, additional dollars to support the disabled, and a conservation program meant to control air pollution.

Lawmakers have less than two weeks to negotiate a compromise.