Governor proposes big cuts in State of the State

Monday, February 1, 2010 at 7:13pm
Gov. Phil Bredesen proposed massive budget cuts during his final State of the State address. Photo by Joon Powell for The City Paper

With federal economic stimulus aid running out, Gov. Phil Bredesen called Monday night for balancing the recession-battered state budget by slashing $400 million from TennCare, higher education and other social services.

At least 350 state workers would lose their jobs, and another 450 vacant positions would be abolished under the spending plan that the governor outlined in his final State of the State speech to the legislature.

But Bredesen also recommended one-time 3 percent bonuses for all state employees, including teachers and college professors, and he proposed dipping into state savings to prevent the loss of more jobs and social services during the 2011 fiscal year that starts July 1.

With $202 million from savings — about one-fourth of all the reserve funds — the governor would spare nearly 400 state jobs, as well as school nursing programs, breast cancer screening, and alcohol and drug treatment centers, among other services.

Bredesen also proposed two new ways to raise revenue to prevent more cuts. He would increase driver’s license fees by $1.85 a year to keep the Highway Patrol intact. A new tax on cable TV boxes would help colleges and universities, district attorneys and public defenders, probation and parole offices, and agriculture and forestry programs.

“This is the eighth and final time that I will report to you on the state of our state; it is the eighth and final time that I’ll present a budget to you,” the governor told lawmakers. “We’ve had a share of easy years and tough years, but by any standard these past two years have been extraordinary. This coming one will be as well. The recession which has gripped our nation has been felt strongly here in Tennessee. We have seen unemployment and housing issues affect far too many of our families. Our state revenues have plummeted, creating tough challenges for us to maintain the services that our citizens want.

“There are many things about this recession that we can’t affect here in Tennessee. Believe me; I’m very aware of the pain and uncertainty that this recession is causing in homes all over our state, and I’m very gratified by the renewed focus in Washington on our economy. I wish the Congress and the president well in their efforts to address these difficult issues. There are many things we can’t address from Tennessee and what I’ve tried to do is to concentrate on two things that we can: managing our own house — state government — to live within its means, and continuing to look for ways to move forward on those things on which our future depends.”

The $28 billion budget is 5 percent less than this year’s, mainly because of the loss of federal stimulus cash that rescued state government in 2009.

Bredesen’s new budget would decrease higher education by $64 million. Officials said an undetermined number of faculty and staff at colleges and universities will lose their jobs, and classes will be eliminated.

Children’s services will lose $16 million, mental health services $9 million, and other health programs $11 million. But $200 million in reductions — or fully half of all the cuts — would come in TennCare, Tennessee’s version of Medicaid. Among the cuts: a $10,000 annual cap on hospital stays and a ceiling on hospital reimbursements for caring for TennCare patients.

“There are some substantial cuts in TennCare,” Bredesen told reporters in a briefing before his speech. “TennCare is such a big piece of the budget, you can’t get from here to there without substantial cuts in TennCare. These are painful cuts.”

Health care advocates say the latest cuts will jeopardize charity hospitals, such as Nashville General, which will have to absorb any medical expenses above the cap. Officials say they may have to close the publicly owned hospital in Memphis.

“The governor continues to run TennCare the way he ran his private HMO, by focusing on how much surplus it can generate,” said Gordon Bonnyman of the Tennessee Justice Center, an advocacy group for TennCare patients. “He continues to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in TennCare reserves, refusing to spend funds that were appropriated to help desperately ill Tennesseans and the hospitals that serve them.

“That is tragically misguided and reflects how far removed the governor is from the harsh realities of many Tennessee families.”

13 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 2/1/10 at 8:17

Dump pre K.

By: Kosh III on 2/2/10 at 7:00

"a $10,000 annual cap on hospital stays" aka How to ruin hospitals and kill patients.

That much can be run up in one or two days. Heck 10 thousand won't get you in the door of the Mayo Clinic. Truly, he does not care who he hurts as long as he can look good.

By: BigPapa on 2/2/10 at 8:02

There isn't an endless supply of money and I'm glad Bredesen has the b@lls to make these cuts. If the cuts are painless then that just means they should have been done 10 years ago instead of today.
Maybe if the cuts end up being too deep then people will chose to pay more through higher taxes. But until then you cut until it hurts, then cut some more.

By: govskeptic on 2/2/10 at 9:52

To have been elected as the guy who would "Fix Tenncare" this
so called Health expert (Where he made his "Internet Fortune-
Pre 2000 market bubble burst) I think his performance in that area
has certainly been less than stellar! Fix has always been cut
everyone from the roles. Only a genius could come up with
that one.

By: Sumsrent on 2/2/10 at 10:47

Bredesen is part of the elbow rubbing crowd!

Why would he recommend bonuses... "one-time 3 percent bonus for all state employees, including teachers and college professors..."

Hey... wait a minute! I thought the economy is in rough shape! I thought that thousands of us average peons that don't work for the state aren't getting wage increases and bonuses because things are tight! What does "one time" mean... one time this quarter?

Why are we always protecting government workers? What about the rest of us? The average state worker already makes more money per year than the rest of us peons… do “they” really need a bonus when things are said to be in bad shape?

Many non state people could still use a job... but the government is sending out bonuses to their workers while increasing taxes and fees, such as "...driver’s license fees by $1.85 a year to keep the Highway Patrol intact." A small fee sure… but a nickel here and a dime there has been adding up for decades!

Yet another... "Protect the state and government workers program!" While the rest of us serve, through being taxed, to support them… while being fed the propaganda in the media that state workers have such rough jobs…

Oh… do we need to mention sparing 400 state jobs too, using one fourth of the reserve funds? Oh… I see… the reserve funds are to protect the state workers’ salaries in tough times.

By: Sumsrent on 2/2/10 at 11:10


I'm stunned... for anyone to believe or say... "if the cuts end up being too deep then people will chose to pay more through higher taxes."

What!? Is this a for real comment? More... higher taxes!?

The only people I've met that can say such a thing are the ones already on some sort of welfare or disability feeding off the system, not paying any taxes... and have no understanding to the value of a hard earned buck!

There are way to many lemmings in this world!

Another point... If Bredesen with all his expertise in Healthcare can't put together a healthcare program for the state of Tennessee... how will the US government put together a healthcare reform bill, when Bredesen can't?

Oh... if the cuts to deep... pay more higher taxes... hummm...

By: Kosh III on 2/2/10 at 12:11

"The average state worker already makes more money per year than the rest of us peons"

Very wrong. State employees make less than comparable private positions. And most are doing a very difficult job, one not made any easier by people like you who disparage them. It is true that there are some slackers in state employment, just like in the private sector. You obviously don't know many people who work for the state nor do you know what the job entails.

By: govskeptic on 2/2/10 at 12:22

Kosh I can't totally agree with you, but to a degree. Several depts have
employees and lots of them that pay much more than their civilian
conterparts. Others however are paid a disgraceful wage one being
Dept of Corrections, and I'm sure there are others. Higher Education
is one area with both high salaries and lots of benefits (and no
accountability). One problem with government job cutting is the
selection of who goes. Mostly new hires go-slackers know how
to stay! They usually hve had yrs of experience at it!

By: BigPapa on 2/2/10 at 2:24

Yes, if the cuts are too deep then people will have to make a decision regarding what level of service they recieve from the government and that can only be provided through an increase in taxes. What's so hard and "stunning" about that???
Do you think that roads get paved for free? That Hwy patrol is done out of the goodness of their hearts, that colleges run on fairy dust?
Once the cuts get to where they affect middle class people eventually you have to chose whether you pay for it or do w/o.

By: Sumsrent on 2/2/10 at 2:28

Kosh... I disparage them? Really?

Why? Because we're tired of hearing the propaganda on how we Amerikans need to protect the government employees of this nation?

Even from the beginning of Obama's administration, his words included money for infrastructure and keeping jobs for policeman and teachers and more money for veterans.
Obama is confident in: (His four basic principles, if we remember…)

1) Money for healthcare
2) Money for education
3) Money for energy
4) Reducing the budget

He mentioned money for infrastructure and keeping jobs for policeman and teachers and more money for veterans.
He mentioned working for a global workforce.
He mentioned leveling the richer countries down to the level of the poorer countries.
He mentioned increasing unemployment benefits while securing healthcare for the unemployed.
He mentioned making Israel a two state country.

Most of this sounds like an investment into government. I’m curious… If the stimulus package was supposed to stimulate the economy, how did securing government jobs do this?

I know the old saying “You have to spend money to make money”… but what it looks like here is that stimulus packages are designed to spend money on things that don’t give a return.

Maybe you haven't heard how small business loans are scarce...

It doesn’t take a person with even basic understandings of economics to realize that government is an expense that depends on tax payers. Rome is a great example of over taxing its people… and we know what happened to Rome…

I understand the need for government… but bigger isn’t always better… and protecting their jobs seems completely unfair to the rest of society...

I wonder how many of us realize the neat little tricks the government is taxing us nowadays? Have you looked at your cell phone bills lately? How about your satellite T.V. bill? I’ve got $10 bucks worth of tax/fees on a measly $50 dollar bill. Correct me if I’m wrong… but isn’t that like a 20% rate? We sure wouldn’t approve of such a rate on our groceries or store bought items.

And you Kosh see this as being critical... Hummm... you must be a state employee!

So it goes... us average peons are taxed to make sure state and government employees get to keep their jobs and get bonuses!

By: Sumsrent on 2/2/10 at 2:48

Yea BigPapa... it's stunning... In fact, you're beyond my comprehension...

When the first thing out of a person’s mouth is the consideration that we should all get use to the idea of paying more taxes!

Is that the only solution in your eyes?

Did it ever occur to you that maybe some departments are overspending and careless in their budgets? This article is a perfect example of how funds are wastefully being distributed on state employees, while the rest of the non-state employed people suffer because of cutbacks at their jobs.

Did it ever occur to you that by forcing these cuts it thereby causes many to shout out and complain which in turn gathers support for increasing taxes down the road?

Go ahead BigBoy... pay out those taxes... in fact cover my portion to, since it's not a problem to ya!

By: Kosh III on 2/2/10 at 3:11

Maybe you haven't heard how small business loans are scarce..."

Yes. It's the bank's fault not the fault of state employees.

20% tax rate? as opposed to 27% on credit cards? How is this the fault of the employees.

If you have a problem take it up with the people responsible: Ramsey, Mumpower, Bredesen, Alexander, Cooper....

By: Sumsrent on 2/2/10 at 3:51


You really are a character... you keep taking a single sentence attempting to make a case and trying to change the subject.

In fact as I read through your post I realize how much you don't know...

Are you familiar with the Federal Reserve? Do you know that they are responsible for controlling inflation?

But getting back on subject... Let me put it more simply...

We are tired of being taxed and filled with the propaganda to keep feeding the protected government and state employees!

This fine article exposes this underlying agenda... just within this state!