‘Major disappointment’: Gov. Lee, GOP budget ignores state’s biggest challenges, Democrats say

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Lee’s state budget proposal neglects childcare, public schools and healthcare — the top issues facing Tennessee families, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly said Wednesday.

Left to right: Sen. Jeff Yarbro, Sen. Raumesh Akbari, Rep. Karen Camper and Rep. Vincent Dixie

The Republican budget also funds a variety of bills that are irresponsible, inefficient or cruel, lawmakers said.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), the Senate Democratic Caucus leader, said:
“It’s hard to spend this much money with this little imagination and this little heart. This budget invests over a billion new dollars in incarceration, government buildings, and new, unnecessary bureaucracies while making only minimal investments in public schools, childcare, or health care. The state’s leaving billions of healthcare dollars on the sidelines while dismantling the unemployment safety net that so many Tennesseans desperately needed in the last year. If this budget attacked the real challenges facing people in Tennessee with the same effort that the Administration puts into piling cash in the rainy day fund, there’s no problem we couldn’t solve.”

Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis), the House Democratic leader, said:
“Our state and our nation have just experienced one of the most difficult years in history. We have had to endure physical, mental, emotional and financial hardships that are still affecting every Tennessean. As the voice of our constituents and neighbors, it is our job and our mission to address the needs of our communities. While we have faced monumental obstacles in the wake of COVID-19, we have the resources to provide much needed relief to the families, students and businesses of Tennessee. We have more than enough revenue to remedy most of the issues facing our state, and the majority has decided to severely underfund or totally ignore the needs of working Tennesseans.”

Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), the Senate Democratic Caucus chairwoman, said:
“A budget is a moral document and this one’s a sinner. The controlling party is spending billions of dollars, some on decent ideas, but it’s not even attempting to confront the biggest challenges that families care about, like childcare, affordable healthcare, or Tennessee’s school funding crisis. This spending plan misses a golden opportunity to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. This budget could have been something transformative, but it isn’t.”

Rep. Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville), the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said:
“I believe this budget can only be described as a major disappointment for the working people of Tennessee. At a time when the state is flush with cash and has billions of dollars in reserve funds that could be used to help educate our children, put food on our tables and care for our sick family members, Gov. Bill Lee and the Republican majority has chosen to ignore their cries for help and put more money in the bank for a rainy day that’s already here.”

Gov. Lee’s budget proposal, Senate Bill 912, passed the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday afternoon after the Republican majority attached several of their political priorities to the spending plan.

With less than 24 hours in the public view, the Senate and House are expected to vote on their chamber’s version of the budget on Thursday morning.

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly