Last month, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was in Nashville and joined U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and me for a great discussion about education and workforce readiness.
As I said to the audience of business leaders during the event, I don’t know of a more critical issue facing states than making sure citizens have the necessary skills and training for high quality, good-paying jobs.
Let me turn to the budget. Later this week I will file an amendment to the fiscal year 2014-15 budget that identifies $160 million in reductions due to an ongoing decline in revenue collections and an additional $150 million to close the funding gap in the current budget for fiscal year 2013-14.
The revenue collection decreases were caused by two things. First, a dip in sales tax collections after a modest holiday shopping season, followed by a long, cold winter that has kept shoppers indoors.
Our state depends heavily on sales tax, and because so much commerce has shifted online without us being able to collect a majority of the taxes owed, that continues to have a negative impact on our budget year in and year out. For example, in fiscal year 2012-13, the state had an estimated revenue loss of nearly $332 million due to online commerce.
Second, franchise and excise taxes, also known as business tax collections, which are often volatile, are down $215 million. This is a result of overpayments by businesses last year that are now resulting in credits and refunds.
Budget reductions obviously aren’t much fun to report, but we are managing state government well and are making responsible choices to ensure a balanced budget. It is important to note that Tennessee’s economy continues to be strong. Tennessee businesses are performing well and continue to make decisions to create more jobs here.
Finally, with spring weather here at last, let me mention the new field trip program Crissy is doing at the Tennessee Residence. We’re inviting students to come learn about the history of the home and tour the grounds. In March, we had students from Bransford Pride Afterschool Program in Springfield tour the Residence, plant collards and cabbage in the Kitchen and Cutting Garden, prepare vegetable wraps with our Residence Chef Stephen Ward, and listen as Crissy read from her March Read20 book of the month, “The Wind in the Willows.”
We think these field trips provide students a great, hands-on opportunity to learn not only about our state’s history, but also about agriculture, sustainability and healthy eating.
As always I welcome your feedback on the items I’ve mentioned above or anything else that’s on your mind. You can e-mail me at email@example.com.
Bill Haslam is governor of Tennessee.