General Assembly passes $52.8 billion budget

Published 11:03 am Friday, April 26, 2024

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Members of the 113th General Assembly last week fulfilled their constitutional duty with the passage of a $52.8 billion balanced budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

This year’s budget highlights lawmakers’ continuous efforts to keep taxes low and remain fiscally responsible while prioritizing the needs of Tennesseans. The zero-debt budget is a spending plan that advances Republicans’ efforts to strengthen families, improve public safety, advance education, and create new opportunities for businesses to grow.

“This budget addresses a diverse range of needs across our state while continuing our tradition of good fiscal governance,” said House Finance Chair State Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain. “Crafting this budget was a challenge because we are facing increasing demands due to rising inflation. Tennessee remains a model for economic prosperity because we’ve managed our spending limits and planned well for the future.”

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Total legislative initiatives make up nearly $21 million in recurring investments and $141.5 million in nonrecurring expenditures. While revenues have slowed considerably, Tennessee continues to be among the most fiscally stable states in the nation with no state income tax and low tax burden overall.

The slate of budget and legislative priorities includes significant investments in rural and behavioral health care with $303 million in new dollars directed to 17 programs. These funds will help to expand bed capacity, fund infrastructure projects for children’s hospitals and expand access to behavioral health inpatient care.

The budget adds $261 million in new recurring dollars for K-12 education, bringing the total base Tennessee Investment in Achievement (TISA) budget to $6.8 billion and the overall budget for public education to $8.55 billion. The new dollars will cover medical insurance premiums, retirement for teachers, and funding for teacher raises to bring the annual starting base salary up to $50,000 by 2026.

Among new investments in public safety are a $17 million investment for 60 new Tennessee State Trooper positions and $750,000 in security grants for houses of worship.

The budget includes a $36 million investment to help distressed counties and rural communities with economic development, such as community asset improvements, marketing and downtown revitalization grants.

It also makes a $100 million deposit in the state’s Rainy-Day Fund, which serves as the state’s savings account to help withstand economic downturns, bringing the fund to a historic balance of more than $2.15 billion.

Tennessee is among the lowest-taxed states in the nation and collects zero income tax. Tennessee holds the highest bond rating issued by all three of the nation’s credit rating agencies, which reflects extreme confidence in the Volunteer State’s preparedness in meeting financial commitments in tough economic times.


The General Assembly unanimously approved legislation authorizing bonuses for Tennessee National Guard members serving in critical roles this week.

House Bill 2088, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and co-sponsored by State Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, authorizes the Tennessee Department of Military to create a critical skills retention bonus program to award National Guard members who continue to serve.

“(This bill) allows the National Guard to establish a board to help recruit and retain those national guard members and critical combat skills that we need,” Whitson said Monday.

The board will research and identify critical job skills that if left unmanned, would pose a risk to the department’s ability to respond when called upon. The group would then provide incentive amount recommendations on each job skill, up to $10,000.

House Bill 2088 also ensures that if a state employee is called to serve and their military job pays less than their civilian job, the state will pay the difference so that the employee does not suffer from lost wages while serving our state or nation.


The General Assembly this week passed legislation streamlining regulations for liquor-by-the-drink licenses for barber shops, cosmetology salons and cigar bars.

House Bill 2613, sponsored by State Rep. Jake McCalmon, R-Franklin, allows these businesses to charge for alcoholic beverages instead of giving them away or including them in the price of the service provided.

“This provides a less expensive but more restrictive medium for which they can sell cocktails,” McCalmon said.

Businesses are required to have a maximum of 20 seats for food service to be eligible for the new license.

Additionally, the applicant’s alcoholic beverage sales may not exceed 15 percent of annual gross sales, and the license does not allow businesses to sell or give away liquor between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

House Bill 2613 will now head to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law.


Legislation making the voter registration process more secure in Tennessee was approved by the General Assembly.

House Bill 1955, sponsored by State Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, prohibits people and organizations from pre-filling out voter registration applications. The legislation also requires third-party voter registration organizations to register with the Secretary of State’s office and prevents certain felons from handling applications.

“The last thing we need is someone who’s been convicted of voter fraud, perjury or abuse of a senior citizen is having senior citizens’ Social Security numbers,” Rudd said.

The legislation states that it’s presumed the date an applicant signs a voter registration application is the date the person or organization received or collected the application. It also ensures no alterations to the voter registration form are made without the applicant’s consent. The state election commission can impose civil penalties of up to $5,000 for violations of the bill. The legislation now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law.

(Rep. John Holsclaw represents most of Carter County and all of Unicoi County in the Tennessee Legislature)