Lawmakers Pass Newly Amended Budget; Set to Reconvene in June


Tennessee lawmakers passed Governor Bill Lee’s amended budget for fiscal year 2020-21 late Thursday night following a robust debate amongst members. Several proposed amendments to the newly proposed budget were tabled after a lengthy discussion.

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

The revised budget continues to support higher education by fully funding the higher education performance formula, providing capital maintenance funds for public higher education institutions, and providing funds for salary increases for higher education employees. Full funding of the higher education funding formula is critical to the state’s success and UT’s ability to keep higher education affordable for students.

The proposal deletes many discretionary spending items previously slated for funding including many Administration spending priorities.  It deletes all higher education capital projects, and although UT did not have any current projects included in the original budget proposal, projects at other institutions are affected.

In addition, the budget 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 adjourned late Thursday evening and are expected to reconvene June 1, 2020 in an effort to follow Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. Lawmakers and Administration officials have indicated that there may be an opportunity to revisit the budget at that time, perhaps passing a supplemental spending bill, depending on the state’s economic outlook and the impact of COVID-19.