State agencies asking Gov. Lee for significant budget increases

Jan 29, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  New Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is getting some strong pushback after asking state departments to plan for two-percent budget cuts in the coming fiscal year.

Gov. Bill Lee (Left) leads hears presentations from state agencies during budget hearings at the capitol January 28, 2019.

In preparation for budget hearings at the capitol, Lee asked commissioners to submit plans for budget reductions, but told reporters he hadn’t yet decided whether to make those cuts.

On Friday, Corrections Commissioner Tony Parker told Lee to expect his department to ask for more funding to cover much-needed raises.

“We pay our corrections officers about $27,300 a year... When you look at competitive law enforcement agencies; sheriff’s offices, other agencies that we compete with, we’re at the bottom of the scale.”

Parker’s team told Gov. Lee that Tennessee will have the nation’s second lowest paid corrections officers when the new state budget takes effect in July.

Then during Monday’s presentations, the Department of Children’s Services warned it also needs millions of dollars in new funding. Commissioner Jennifer Nichols told Gov. Lee that since 2016 her department has seen a more than 10 percent jump in the number of children in state care due to the opioid epidemic.

She noted that some of Tennessee’s neighbors have seen increases that are even more dramatic.

“Georgia has a 72.81 percent increase. Mississippi has 43 percent increase. Alabama has a 26 percent increase."

Children Services is requesting $78 million in budget increases through state and federal money, including $64 million more for foster children case management and treatment services.