Back in April, when Governor Haslam betrayed teachers and state employees and took their proposed pay increase out of his budget, a bipartisan group of legislators proposed what they then called the Tennessee Solution.
The plan had a price tag of $90 million and used reserve funds to pay out a one time bonus to teachers and state employees. The plan also called for a 1% raise to be provided only if state revenues exceeded budgeted targets.
By doing so, the plan put money in the pockets of teachers (essentially delivering a portion of Haslam’s promise) and also offered hope of more funds should the state find the money. Essentially, it said that if there is extra money, the first priority for those funds should be our teachers.
Ultimately, Haslam’s forces prevailed and that idea was rejected.
Now, there’s news that August revenues were far above projections. More than $30 million ahead, to be specific. The increase is due to the highest sales tax collections in more than two years. And, despite a negative growth number for non-corporate taxes, collections there were $6.1 million over budget.
If this type of revenue growth continues, delivering on the Tennessee Solution would be very doable. Except that the legislature decided against it at Haslam’s urging.
Yes, it’s still early in the revenue cycle, but making education a priority was the right thing to do in April and early revenue numbers show it fiscally feasible as well.
Next up, tomorrow’s Education Summit in Nashville. Where Haslam and friends should be talking about how best to use any unexpected revenue growth to invest in Tennessee’s public schools.
For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport