Budget battle continues on Capitol Hill

Friday, June 12, 2009 at 3:59am

It’s beginning to look like the Tennessee General Assembly doesn’t want to go home…ever.

Elected officials from the Democratic and Republican parties have immersed themselves into a game of “he said, she said” concerning the budget. That means unless people calm down over the weekend, legislators could remain in session for another two weeks, ending business on the same sour note they started on in January.

At issue right now is the state budget and which programs will or won’t be funded. Republicans in the state Senate have proposed funding for what is called a megasite and for economic recruitment be cut because the state doesn’t have the money. They have also proposed cutting funding for Bredesen’s solar initiatives, building programs on state university campuses, changes to Pre-K funding, and more.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said programs and initiatives would be funded where they could be afforded, but in times of economic troubles the state needs to scale back.

“Just like a family that wants to be an addition on to their house,” Ramsey said, “we need to wait till we can afford it.”

Bredesen called the proposed GOP budget a “political document” rather than a budget. He said the GOP plan was “stupid” and cutting programs like building a megasite in Haywood County, one of the poorest county’s in the state, was “not good budgeting but political posturing.” He was especially upset by that proposal since he's about to board plane to Europe "to try to sell the thing and they want to take the bonding away. This money was identified two years ago.”

According to Bredesen, most of the money identified by the GOP is federal money and doesn’t affect the overall balance sheet. Ramsey has stated that the funds come with strings and the state will have to pay eventually.

Ramsey did state that his caucus' proposal was a “starting point” and could be discussed. He said that maybe Bredesen reacted so negatively to their ideas was “because no one had disagreed with him before.”

In other economic news, Bredesen said that he had been in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to hear from GM officials about their Spring Hill plant plans. Bredesen, along with Sens. Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, Congressman Lincoln Davis, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, and a staffer from Congressman Marsha Blackburn’s office were told by GM officials, “How large of a check can you write?” in order to keep the plant.

Bredesen said that it was obvious the company is looking for up-front cash, is not concerned about long-term tax benefits, training incentives, or anything else. He said he and Kisber would be looking at the situation but the state is obviously not in a position to “write a big check.”