My colleagues and I in the House of Representatives closed out another successful legislative session of the 112th General Assembly with a great feeling of optimism about Tennessee’s future.
We have so much to be proud of in the Volunteer State. Our state economy is healthy and booming. We continue to make headlines with news of global companies continuing to move in and bring high-quality jobs. Tennesseans enjoy the lowest state and local tax burden per capita and we do all of this without a personal state income tax.
The primary goal of the General Assembly is the same each year: to provide the best possible service at the greatest efficiency and at the lowest cost to taxpayers. This year’s $52.8 billion, zero-debt budget is a spending plan that prioritizes the needs of all Tennesseans while advancing Republicans’ efforts to improve education, strengthen the economy, modernize infrastructure, and make our communities safer.
At a time when reckless federal policies have created record-high inflation many of us have not seen in our lifetime, I’m proud that we provided $300 million in tax relief for Tennesseans. This includes a 30-day sales tax holiday on groceries in August in addition to our traditional sales tax holiday on clothing and supplies before the start of the school year.
We made strategic investments in this year’s budget that further builds on conservative priorities and strengthens Tennessee’s standing as the most fiscally responsible state in the nation. We continued to invest in our state’s saving’s account, bringing the total Rainy-Day fund to a record-high of $1.8 billion.
Republicans doubled-down on our commitment to improve K-12 and higher education this year. We joined Gov. Bill Lee in making historic investments that will provide our students with a transformative, world-class education through the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act.
This new funding model replaces the current Basic Education Program (BEP) and prioritizes students’ individual needs rather than relying on ratio components and district averages.
The TISA plan puts direct focus on students with disabilities, students in rural and urban areas and low-income families. We are investing an unprecedented $9 billion in K-12 education, which includes an additional recurring state investment of $1 billion.
Every Tennessee school district will receive more funding with the new plan, with the exact increases depending on the student population being served.
When we talk about education, we are talking about the future and success of our state. A skilled workforce demands investing in education at every level. This budget invests $500 million to expand Career and Technical Education to 759 middle and high schools across the state. The General Assembly provided $125 million to increase teacher salaries and $25.5 million for summer reading camps.
The General Assembly is investing $200 million in our Tennessee Colleges of Applied Science in effort to double our workforce by 2026. We provided $90 million to ensure state colleges and universities do not raise tuition fees this year and increased Tennessee HOPE Scholarship awards, which have not been increased since 2008. Coupled with no tuition increases at our state universities, Tennessee students will find it less financially stressful to access secondary education options.
We are investing $519 million in new road funding for Tennessee and another $100 million to complete several IMPROVE Act projects across the state. For Sumner County, this means $76 million to alleviate congestion along Vietnam Veterans Boulevard.
Finally, part of the General Assembly’s duty is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. Republicans have continued to make significant investments in safer communities by providing funds that will modernize Tennessee’s police and firefighter training academies, as well as cover the costs of hiring and training more police and fire recruits. We have ensured truth in sentencing, transparency and accountability for victims of the most violent crimes committed in our state. These laws will provide transparency within our sentencing structure so that victims their families as well as offenders will know exactly how much time will be served.
We’ve seen extraordinary successes in the Volunteer State by simply raising our expectations of ourselves. Our efforts and problem-solving are paying off: Tennessee continues to be recognized as one of the best-managed states in the nation. Our willingness to work hard to meet challenges is what makes us so resilient through tough times. That is something to be proud of.
William Lamberth is the House majority leader for the 112th Tennessee General Assembly and represents House District 44. He is a member of several House committees.