Governor Lee Delivers State of the State Address, Includes UT Priorities in Budget

Exterior of a glass and brick building at the UT Health Science Center building in Memphis.

Governor Bill Lee delivered his State of the State address this week, announcing key proposed investments that will impact the University of Tennessee and Tennessee students for generations to come.

Governor Lee’s proposed budget reflects an unprecedented commitment to higher education and the single largest budget in UT history. The proposed operating budget includes recurring increases of $49.6 million and includes:

  • $5.1 million critical operating increase for the UT Health Science Center
  • $8 million to further develop the Oak Ridge Institute

The budget proposal also funds two UT capital projects—the UT Knoxville nursing building and the UT Health Science Center Nash build-out of two floors. UT’s full capital maintenance request of $59.9 million also is proposed.

Additionally, the future of the University of Tennessee System’s possible acquisition of Martin Methodist College took an important step forward as the Lee Administration included the measure in his proposed budget to the Tennessee General Assembly.

The proposed budget requests $5.1 million recurring/$1 million nonrecurring for the acquisition and necessary start-up costs to incorporate the college in Giles County, Tennessee into the UT System. Tennessee lawmakers must pass the budget proposal, and the measure must still be approved by the regional accreditor Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the United Methodist Church of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Building Commission. Additionally, the UT Board of Trustees must give its final approval.

If the acquisition is approved, Martin Methodist College will become the fourth undergraduate campus in the UT System and the first new campus since UT Chattanooga joined 50 years ago. It will also be the only public four-year higher education institution between Chattanooga and Memphis along Tennessee’s southern border.

Advocates can learn more about this important priority and express their support to members of the General Assembly here.

Other highlights of the week include the House of Representatives passing a resolution to honor the UT Board of Trustees for receiving the John W. Nason Award for Board Leadership from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB). The full resolution can be found here. UT Chattanooga professor and Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) director Dr. Mina Sartipi also presented about UT’s SmartCities initiative in Senate Transportation and Safety Committee on Wednesday. Advocates can access the Committee hearing here.