Friday, January 13, 2017

Lawmakers to debate how to use an almost billion dollar surplus

An almost $1 billion budget surplus for the state of Tennessee may sound like a good thing, and many lawmakers say it's better than the alternative, others are pointing out that means more money should be staying in your wallet.
"If we've got a $1 billion surplus, we're obviously taking too much away from the public," said state Sen. Frank Nicely, a Strawberry Plains Republican told WBIR 10News.
Tennessee lawmakers expect to decide this session how to spend $925 million in extra money this year. It marks the third straight year the state has taken in more money than expected.
State Sen. Doug Overby, R-Maryville, doesn't think the total will end up being quite that high once other expenses come out.
"A lot has been made of having a budget surplus. The fact of the matter is, in any given year, there are some natural increases in the state budget," Overby said.
He said increases in Basic Education Program funding and TennCare typically take some of the surplus.
But there will still likely be money available at the lawmakers' discretion to spend.
"I think we have to look at spending it wisely. As the Governor said, 'Let's not be stupid rich, let's be smart rich,'" said state Rep. Eddie Smith, a Knoxville Republican.
Many lawmakers agree two major needs deserve priority: education and road improvements. 
"I would like to see teachers get a raise, K-12 teachers, and I'd like to see some of that surplus going toward road construction or road maintenance," said state Rep. Martin Daniel, a Knoxville Republican.
Niceley and other representatives didn't go into specifics, but suggest lawmakers should find a way to return the money to the taxpayers.
"I'd like to give it back to the people," said Nicely.
"I want to know what is the mechanism to not collect so much that we have a surplus because that means we're over collecting somewhere," said state Rep. Roger Kane, a Knoxville Republican.

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