Money for education, scaling back taxes and exercising fiscal restraint are key points the governor plans to hit on during his annual State of the State address Monday evening pitching his priorities for the next year.
The speech will be the third for first-term Gov. Bill Haslam who said the main thrust of his address will point out what sets Tennessee apart from other states.
“I think tonight, the message you’ll hear from me is why Tennessee is different,” Haslam told reporters Monday.
While Tennessee ranks among the lowest in the country on several education fronts, Haslam plans to point out the state is one of 14 that has resisted spending cuts in K-12 education over the last two years. He also plans to go into details about how the state can increase its graduation rates, lower college costs, and plug more money into the higher education system’s capital projects.
Tax cuts are also on the agenda tonight as the governor touts a variety of taxes he and the legislature have reduced, including the tax on groceries and investment income, phasing out the inheritance tax and eliminating the tax on gifts. The governor has also said he wants to further reduce the tax on groceries from 5.25 percent to 5 percent.
Haslam also plans to make his case for depositing more money in the state’s rainy day fund. The governor told reporters he still has not made a decision on whether to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
In a meeting with Senate Republicans Monday afternoon, the governor said lawmakers will interrupt the "storyline already being written" about this year's General Assembly, which is stacked with GOP super majorities in both chambers.
"I mean this sincerely. It’s really good to have you back. Some of you are looking at me, like, really? But I’m excited about this session," Haslam said. "I personally think that this session will surprise a lot of people in how effective we are.
"There’s a storyline already being written for this General Assembly, and I think folks in here and other places are going to surprise people with how effective it’s going to be. And I look forward to that."
Haslam’s first budget address stressed a theme of the state entering a “new normal” of running government with less money. Last year, his message was to “believe in better.”
The governor’s budget address will begin at 6 p.m. can be watched here: http://www.tn.gov/stateofthestate/