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Budget provides relief for unemployed, foundation for jobs creation

  • Written by Reginald Tate
  • Published in News
So what’s in the $30.8 billion state budget? For starters, the state has once again fully funded education, including our nationally recognized pre-kindergarten program.
 Sen. Reginald Tate

Thanks to a marathon three-day session that held lawmakers in Nashville for 14-hour workdays, the legislature finished its business late Saturday night. Surprisingly, the state budget was one of the least controversial tasks we tackled, which is a testament to both the current and the previous governor’s work to keep our state strong financially.

So what’s in the $30.8 billion budget? For starters, the state has once again fully funded education, including our nationally recognized pre-kindergarten program. We continue to use Race to the Top funds to hire new teachers, purchase much-needed upgrades to equipment, and use innovative curriculum to lift Tennessee from the bottom of national educational rankings.

(Unfortunately, much of this work was overshadowed by political payback measures that targeted teachers while ignoring our children. In the future, I hope we will focus on our kids’ success in the classroom, not our lawmakers’ politics in the Capitol.)

Beyond education, a major success in the budget was the extension of unemployment benefits to 28,000 Tennesseans who would have otherwise lost their assistance. Our unemployment rate in Tennessee rose again to 9.6 percent in April, meaning that more and more people are looking for a job and can’t find one. Now, many of those displaced workers can continue to look for new jobs without the fear of losing the small safety net they have paid into. These are people that want to work: Here in Memphis, we had more than 20,000 applicants in two weeks for 500 jobs with City Brewing, which is buying the Hardy Bottling plant. Tennesseans haven’t stopped looking for work. We shouldn’t stop working for them.

The budget also provides funds for Electrolux, which will build a $190 million cooking products factory that will create 1,200 jobs. This plan was established under Gov. Phil Bredesen and followed through by Gov. Bill Haslam, who committed to the project because of its importance to the local and statewide economy. While I would have preferred to see more jobs creation legislation for small businesses and entrepreneurs, I am pleased to see that we have the chance to grow jobs in Memphis and Shelby County while supporting those who are looking for them.

Finally, our local universities will see significant support in this budget. The Memphis Research Consortium, which includes the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, will receive $10 million to begin its work in increasing research and life science opportunities in the city and throughout the state. U of M also received $5 million to start classes at Lambuth University in Jackson, while UTHSC received an additional $4.5 million for a new pharmacy building.

At The Lemoyne-Owen College, the HBCU Wellness Project will continue thanks to a $1 million grant to Meharry Medical College, which administers the program throughout the state.

There is much more to be explained in this budget, including a $2.5 million grant to the Civil Rights Museum and the restoration of health care funds for seniors and the mentally disabled. In the coming months, I hope to be able to show the fruits of our labor during this session, as well as the areas where a lot of work still remains. I hope you will continue to contact my office with any questions, concerns or suggestions, because we can accomplish much more working together. Thank you for your continued support, and I hope to see you back home soon.

(Sen. Reginald Tate represents portions of Memphis and Shelby County. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (615) 741-2509 or 320 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0033.)

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