More than 5,000 state workers would lose their jobs in the unlikely event that Congress ever slashes Tennessee’s federal revenue by more than $4 billion, according to figures released Tuesday.
Across-the-board reductions in services from public schools to health care to the environment also are among the Draconian budget cuts in contingency plans submitted to Gov. Bill Haslam.
The federal government funds two-fifths of the $30 billion state budget. The governor’s what-if exercise is aimed at showing credit rating agencies that Tennessee could cope without so much of Washington’s cash.
Haslam acknowledged such severe cuts are unlikely to happen even with Washington planning trillions of dollars in reductions in the coming years.
“We don’t think they will,” Haslam said, “but we think it’s smart of us to ask, ‘What if they do?’ ”
In July, in the midst of the debt ceiling negotiations in Washington, Moody’s Investors Service placed Tennessee and four other states on review for possible downgrading of their top-notch AAA credit ratings because of their overreliance on federal revenue.
So in preparation for a trip to New York next month to try to keep the top bond rating, state Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes asked department heads to detail how they might lop off as much as 30 percent in spending should that become necessary.
Of the 5,132 layoffs, 3,400 would come from departments that serve children, the intellectually disabled and the poor.
The state would have to close both the Harold Jordan Center and Greene Valley Developmental Center for the intellectually disabled. The Harold Jordan Center houses intellectually disabled people who have been charged with a crime. If it closed, the residents would have to go to jails, officials said.
Also included in the cuts, public schools would lose $46 million for school nutrition programs and $31 million in special education funds. Health departments would reduce programs to combat foodborne illnesses, childhood lead poisoning and sudden infant death syndrome, while environmental regulators would curtail pollution monitoring.