In his final address to the Tennessee General Assembly, the thrust of Phil Bredesen’s State of the State speech came down to the budget. Bredesen’s had previously given a July 1 deadline for a balanced budget to both houses and in last night’s speech, he didn’t let up.
From Andy Sher
The governor is proposing making $394 million in state spending reductions accompanied by federal spending cuts of $154.1 million, state officials said. TennCare bears the brunt of much of the cuts — $201 million.
But Gov. Bredesen also wants to hike fees for driver’s licenses, cable taxes and several other taxes by a total of $71.7 million to offset the need to cut even more. Moreover, he wants to take $202 million from an estimated $875 million in Rainy Day and TennCare reserves or from other areas to preserve some jobs and programs if lawmakers go along.
Not everyone is pleased with Bredesen. Anarchival doesn’t mince words on proposed state employee layoffs, something that has been water cooler talk for the past few months.
Laying off State employees has nothing to do with reducing spending and everything to do with the appearance of reducing spending. It’s a political ploy to look as though the government is being fiscally responsible, while they’re actually increasing spending and often cutting the things that would benefit their constituents the most. Voters crying out for “smaller government,” inevitably paid for like this in the life blood of actual jobs, are just as much to blame for these measures as the leaders who respond to their demands in such a counter-productive way. Where government gives back to taxpayers with jobs and services, they are doing good work. Making the government smaller by making it less of a service organization to its people only makes its existence more tyrannical.
Many were unhappy to hear about the large number of layoffs, including Robert O’Connel, who is president of the State Employee’s Association.
“We are very sorry to hear him say that,” O’Connel said, “especially in a state that has nearly a billion dollars in reserves. We are a family. We are sitting at the dinner table hungry. There’s no food on the table, and there’s money in the savings account. That doesn’t add up.”
An editorial in this Tuesday”s Commercial Appeal takes on proposed cuts to TennCare and the situation currently at The Med.
Bredesen wants to cap inpatient services at $10,000 and limit outpatient hospital visits, doctor visits and trips to the lab for X-rays and other tests to eight per year. That would save $200 million in TennCare spending, part of a 3 percent cut overall in health and social services. But it would knock a $48 million hole in the budget at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, hospital officials say.
Officials at The Med are already searching for $22 million more this year just to maintain current services. They describe the proposed TennCare caps as The Med’s hemlock unless some other source of funding can be found.
What frequently is overlooked, however, is that ultimately the purse strings are in the hands of lawmakers.
The main question is simple. How are the budget cuts going to help average Tennesseans?