Governor Lee Delivers First State of the State Address

Governor Lee Delivers State of the State

Governor Bill Lee delivered his first annual State of the State Address on Monday, March 4, outlining a $38.6 billion spending plan for the FY19-20 fiscal year that includes the largest single investment in the Rainy Day fund in the state’s history.

The Governor highlighted his initiatives surrounding higher education, vocational and technical education, criminal justice reform, rural development, and mental healthcare, to name a few.

The Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act will invest $25 million in expanding access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students.  The initiative will utilize regional partnerships between K-12 and private industry to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities, while also providing funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs.

The Governor also announced the “Future Workforce Initiative,” a program aimed at helping boost his goal of placing Tennessee in the top half of states for technology job creation by 2022.  While the “Future Workforce Initiative” is predominately K-12 education oriented, higher education plays a major role in the development of the technology industry from both an educational and research perspective.

For the University of Tennessee, the Governor proposed:

  • Full funding of the higher education performance funding formula, which includes the following increases for “formula-unit” campuses:
    • UT Knoxville: $11.8 million
    • UT Chattanooga: $2.5 million
    • UT Martin: $0.7 million
  • Funding for a 2 percent salary pool at UT’s “nonformula” units, totaling a $6.4 million increase across the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), Institute for Public Service, and Health Science Center.
  • $81.5 million in capital outlay funding for the UTIA Energy and Environmental Science Education Research Center (Ellington Site). In the current facility’s 53-year history, it has never seen a renovation.  The building will house students studying agriculture, forestry, energy, and environmental science—key industries in Tennessee contributing more than $70 billion to the TN economy and employing nearly 15 percent of the state’s workforce.  The building will be heavily used not only by students, but also in teaching, research, extension, and by state and federal agencies.
  • $1.43 million state funds for capital maintenance throughout the UT System, combined with other revenues of $18.69 million to total $20.1 million.
  • $10 million in funding for security upgrades throughout the UT System.
  • $3 million recurring for Graduate Medical Education (GME) with a federal match of $5.7 million to total $8.7 million (appropriated through the Bureau of TennCare). This funding, while not exclusively for UT, will incentivize resident physicians to live and work in rural Tennessee communities. Many of these residents will come from UT Health Science Center.  By increasing the supply of care in rural communities, the proposal will help drive down overall cost of care.

The Governor also announced a new, $12 million investment in need-based grants for Tennessee college students through the Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA) program. This expands the award—available for students at Tennessee colleges and universities—by nearly 7,000 students.

The proposal includes many wins for the University of Tennessee and we thank the Governor for his support.  The UT Government Relations and Advocacy team continues to analyze the budget proposal and will engage with the Administration and General Assembly to advance these funding opportunities that benefit our campuses and institutes.