State Legislature Passes TN Budget; Adjourns

Each year, state legislators are required by law to pass an annual spending plan—the state’s budget.  On Wednesday, Tennessee lawmakers debated and passed the nearly $33 billion spending plan.

The budget represents the State’s renewed focus on higher education.  Largely driven by Governor Bill Haslam, the budget includes full funding for the Complete College Act outcomes funding formula, amounting to a $35.5 million operational funding increase for higher education.  The budget also includes $60 million in capital maintenance funding for higher education and $250 million for higher education capital projects.  One significant capital project included in the budget and relative to the University of Tennessee is a $61.65 million renovation to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Crowe, Mooney, and Nash Building Complex.

It is important to note that although this is a very positive state budget for higher education, state funding only accounts for roughly 30 percent of UT’s overall annual budget.

The state budget also includes:

  • A 1.5 percent salary increase for state employees (Note: State higher education institutions are unlike other state agencies in this area.  Instead of receiving full funding from the state for these raises, state colleges and universities have historically been required to leverage partial funding for them via tuition).
  • $2.96 million in matching funds annually for five years for UT Peds, a joint pediatric research effort between the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center.
  • A $5 million commitment annually for four years in funding support for the Supercomputer housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • $3.5 million in recurring funding to leverage private matching contributions for the UTK College of Engineering
  • $24 million for the UTK Steam Plant conversion
  • $500,000 in recurring funding for UT’s nationally recognized Law Enforcement Innovation Center
  • $1 million in grant funding to the Parsons Foundation for the expansion of the UT Martin nursing building

Not included in the Governor’s original budget proposal but of extreme importance to the University was a funding increase for certain non-formula units (UT Institute of Agriculture, Institute for Public Service).  We are happy to announce that a 2.5% recurring operational funding increase has been restored to these units through the administration’s budget amendment.

Several harmful budget amendments were defeated this session, including an attempt by Sen. Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) to reduce UT’s funding to provide a 1.5% salary increase to employees.

The legislature adjourned on Friday afternoon until the second Tuesday of January 2014.