Governor Haslam Delivers State Of The State Address
By Mark Bellinger
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - $33 Billion. That's the budget Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed Monday night. The Governor delivered his annual State of the State Address at the State Capitol, and among other things, proposed a limited school voucher program, and ways to improve higher education.
This was the Governor's third State of the State Address, but his first to a Republican Legislature with a super-majority. "I believe we have to begin this evening by addressing the elephant in the room, or I guess I should say the elephants in the room," said Gov. Haslam.
He reached across the aisle and reminded both parties to listen to each other. He even quoted former U.S. Senator Howard Baker. "I ask everyone in this chamber to keep in mind what Senator Baker said, the other fellow might be right. Tennesseans don't want us to be like Washington. "
The Governor also talked about education issues. He proposed a new program with a goal of getting 55-percent of Tennesseans with college degrees by the year 2025.
The Governor never used the word voucher, but he talked about giving parents a bigger choice of schools. "If we can help our lowest income students in our lowest performing schools, why wouldn't we," said the Governor.
The biggest applause of the night came when Haslam introduced Doctor Marion Kainer. She's a health department epidemiologist who helped identify the cause of the nationwide meningitis outbreak.
Governor Haslam still hasn't decided whether to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act drawing criticism from one of the leaders in the Democratic Party. Meantime, the Governor's proposed budget also gives state employees a one-and-a-half percent pay increase across the board.