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Gov. Lee unveils 2022 legislative vision in State of the State address

Gov. Bill Lee last week addressed a joint session of the General Assembly in the House Chamber in which he outlined his legislative priorities for 2022 and presented his budget proposal for the upcoming year. The governor’s fourth state of the state highlighted strategic investments in education, infrastructure, public safety, rural Tennessee and supporting families. He emphasized Tennessee’s embodiment of “America at its best” and his commitment to building on the state’s past successes. 

“Tennessee stands as a beacon to the rest of the country for how we can change lives when we control the size of government, prioritize efficiency, and make smart and responsible investments. I am proud to propose a budget and America at Its Best policies that reinforce freedom, innovation, exceptionalism and optimism,” Lee said.   

The governor doubled-down on his commitment to boost education in Tennessee. In addition to overhauling the current Basic Education Program (BEP), he proposed $1.03 billion in new money for K-12 education. Of which, $750 million would be a recurring increase for the new funding formula for fiscal year 2023-24.  The governor noted his new formula will demand accountability and reward districts for performance. It will prioritize the needs of students above all else and will pay particular attention to students with disabilities, students in rural Tennessee and from low-income families.  The governor’s plan includes $1.9 billion for higher education, including $90 million to keep state universities from raising tuition and $200 million for infrastructure investments.  

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Other key initiatives for K-12 and higher education include: 

  • New legislation that ensures parents know what materials are available to students in their libraries 
  • Legislation making computer science and coding available to every high school student in Tennessee 
  • $2.5 million to expand the Future Workforce Initiative  
  • $125 million investment in K-12 teacher salaries/4 percent salary pool increase for higher ed employees 
  • $25.5 million in recurring funding for K-12 summer learning camps  
  • $16 million recurring & $16 million nonrecurring to the Charter Schools Facility Fund to increase the number of charter schools 
  • $72 million to complete the Oak Ridge Innovation Institute 
  • $6 million to establish the Institute of American Civics at the University of Tennessee 
  • $50 million to a Carnegie R1 research fund at the University of Memphis 
  • $250 million in infrastructure improvements at Tennessee State University  
  • $170 million to invest in a statewide Enterprise Resource System for the University of Tennessee and the Locally Governed Institutions 
  • $75 million to increase the 4-year HOPE Award to $5,100 per student, per year, and the 2-year HOPE Award to $3,200 per student, per year 

Safer Communities: Governor Lee expressed his continued commitment for safer communities in Tennessee. He outlined a plan to advance the state’s standing as a national leader for public safety training and consumer protection. During his speech, he announced he would modernize Tennessee’s police and firefighter training academies, as well as cover the costs of training more police and fire recruits. He also announced he would increase oversight of consumer protection. The governor said he would direct the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to create a safety training plan for every house of worship in Tennessee. His budget adds 100 Tennessee State Troopers, 20 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agents, and 25 TBI forensic science personnel.  

Other safety initiatives include: 

  • $355.6 million for a multi-agency law enforcement training academy 
  • $28.4 million to fully fund the correctional officer salary changes  
  • $66 million for the TN Law Enforcement Hiring, Training, and Recruitment program 
  • $179 million to complete full construction of Tennessee Advanced Communications Network coverage, ensuring full mobile connectivity across all Tennessee for emergency communications and law enforcement 
  • $150 million to create the Violent Crime Intervention Grant Fund  

During his speech, Gov. Lee put a strong emphasis on investing in rural communities, infrastructure, economic development and improving health care.  

“You can’t be the best state for families unless you’re the best state for all families. I believe we have significant work to do in improving access to health care for Tennessee families,” Lee said. “Because of our prudent fiscal management, we’re making huge investments in rural healthcare in this budget. And that means actual care, not just keeping hospitals open.”  He proposed to dedicate more than $18 million in attracting 150 new primary care physician residents to rural Tennessee communities.  

Overall, the governor’s proposal invests $545.5 million in Health and Human Services.  

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Other investments in health include: 

  • $25.5 million in dental benefits for adult TennCare enrollees 
  • $21.8 million for the DIDD’s Tennessee Early Intervention System 
  • $6 million to expand substance abuse disorder services to uninsured Tennesseans 
  • $55 million to increase access to services across each Medicaid Pathways to Independence program 

Infrastructure and economic development: 

  • $519 million in new road funding ($77 million for ECD projects included) 
  • $100 million to complete IMPROVE Act projects 
  • $82 million to reimburse public hospitals for uncompensated care, primarily in rural communities  
  • $26 million for Rural Opportunity Grants, helping to get communities ready for corporate investment 
  • $3.5 million to support the Transportation Equity Fund 
  • $103 million for the FastTrack program 

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