Balancing the state budget is always the top priority for the Tennessee General Assembly, a feat which may require some cuts but shouldn’t be as difficult this year as in recent years, according to Warren County’s state representatives.
“We continue to see an increase in state revenue and that’s going to minimize damage to budget cuts we might have to make,” said state Rep. Judd Matheny. “If the federal government doesn’t do something drastic like make deep cuts to transportation funding, we’re looking at possibly being able to roll back the sales tax on food.”
State Rep. Charles Curtiss says revenue is increasing, but the state will be hurt by the lack of federal stimulus dollars which have been received the past two years.
“We’ve been making budget the past two years thanks to federal dollars that aren’t going to be there,” said Curtiss. “The emphasis we’ve had for the past four years has been to make government smaller and smaller. But the leaner you get, the harder it is to make cuts.”
As far as local legislation, state Sen. Eric Stewart says he’s working on a bill he hopes will change how Tennessee officials accept project bids. He says Tennessee companies often miss out under the current system due to just a few dollars.
“Sometimes the lowest and best bid may come from a company in Indiana and we have a Tennessee company getting beat by $200,” said Stewart. “I think we should be able to show some kind of preference for local businesses when we award some of this state work. If it’s a local company, they are paying sales tax in Tennessee. They are putting people to work in Tennessee. That’s money which is going right back into our community.”
Matheny says he wants to continue to push for technology upgrades in the classroom. Where students have long relied on textbooks, he said the wave of the future could be downloading that information on a mobile device.
“I don’t want us to get behind the curve with things like electronic textbooks, tablets and other devices,” said Matheny.
With state revenue already $176 million over projections this year, Stewart also said he would like to see the sales tax lowered on groceries.
“Gradually lowering the sales tax of food affects everybody, and everybody is for it,” Stewart said.
Monday begins the third week of this legislative session. Thus far, redistricting is the only big-ticket item which has been addressed.