State starts budget talks, reports higher than expected revenues

state capitol
Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 19:45:21-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee lawmakers discussed the budget situation for a multitude of small departments this week at the state legislature.

The budget talks come a week and a half before Governor Bill Lee presents his budget on February 8. It's anticipated because of the large budget cuts expected in each department due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

In November, Gov. Lee asked for departments to cut their budgets by 12 percent. The state had a one billion dollar estimated shortfall to make up.

"The budget is the only thing that the legislature is required to do. We pass a lot of other legislation, but constitutionally we could pass the budget here and go home," said Republican Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, chairman of the Finance Committee.

Hazlewood said it's hard to say so early on where cuts will be made. However, she said they're taking an approach where the state is prepared for the worst.

"We will have a lot of hard decisions to make as we continue to go forward with this budget process," she said.

There is some good news, though. Revenues in the state are higher than originally predicted.

"During COVID-19 we had to close down a lot of businesses," said Democrat Representative Karen Camper. "We had to because of this virus. What also happened at the same time is online shopping. Those revenues went up tremendously."

Camper also was concerned about how federal dollars were being spent and wondered if they would run out.