Administration Releases Amended Budget Proposal Amid Coronavirus Concerns, Severe Tornado Damage

Photo of the Tennessee State Capitol on a bright, sunny day.

Governor Bill Lee unveiled his amended proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21 on Wednesday, March 18. Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter presented the newly revised budget to both Senate and House Finance, Ways, and Means Committees on Wednesday.

In light of the severe tornado damage to Middle Tennessee communities and significant estimated economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the budget proposal has been scaled back considerably from its previously recommended version. Assuming passage, many of those funds – roughly $300 million – will now be routed to the state’s rainy-day fund.

The revised budget proposal continues to fully fund the higher education performance formula and maintains the previously recommended level of capital maintenance for public higher education institutions. Full funding is critical to the state’s success and UT’s ability to keep higher education affordable for students.

Among other discretionary spending items, it deletes new higher education capital projects previously slated for funding.  While UT did not have any capital projects on this funding list, projects at other public higher education institutions are affected.

In addition, the proposal makes the following changes that impact UT:

  • Deletes the proposed new investment of $10 million non-recurring for UT’s Oak Ridge Institute;
  • Deletes the proposed new investment of $2.2 million recurring for the UT Institute of Agriculture’s hiring of 32 new Extension agents in rural, distressed counties;
  • Deletes the proposed operational increase for the UT Health Science Center; and
  • Reduces the higher education salary pool from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent.

Lawmakers and Administration officials have indicated that there may come a time to revisit the budget when the legislature reconvenes in June, depending on the state’s economic outlook and the impact of COVID-19. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the amended budget in the coming days, with adjournment expected no later than Saturday.

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