State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, the chair of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee, said she has changed the state legislature’s budgeting process prior to this year’s session, which began Tuesday. 

“As finance chairman, one of the things I’ve done organizationally to try and help ease the congestion during sessions is hold our budget hearings concurrent with the governor’s budget hearings, rather than during session,” Lynn said.

Typically, legislators receive the governor’s budget during the annual State of the State address, which usually occurs in February. 

Lynn said she believed legislators would have a greater impact on the budget if they were able to hold hearings and make comments about the budget at the same time as the governor. 

State Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, chairs the Consumer and Human Resources Committee. He said bills aimed at state tax incentives for businesses and military veterans’ retirement benefits are a top priority for him. 

“Tennessee often times uses tax dollars to incentivize businesses to relocate to our state. I am looking into these programs and, more specifically, whether or not Tennessee is adequately recouping those dollars if and when a company takes state dollars but fails to fulfill the terms of their agreement,” Boyd said. 

He said although the programs are valuable to the state, taxpayers should not bear the burden if a company fails to follow through on its agreements.

Boyd said he is also working on a bill that would allow veterans who work for the state or any local government that is in the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System to purchase up to four years of service credit into the retirement system based on their time in the military. Boyd said the state currently allows the benefit for veterans who served prior to 1975. 

State Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, pointed to the state’s strong economy as a factor in how this year’s legislative session could finish. 

“Passage of a conservative balanced budget that highlights education, job creation, and public safety will be a priority during the 2020 legislative session,” Pody said. “The 2020-2021 budget will be aided by the fact that Tennessee’s finances are the healthiest in state history and enjoys the highest ranking of the nation’s top credit rating agencies.”

He said employment growth is an area the state wants to continue to improve. 

“An emphasis will be placed during the 2020 legislative session on keeping the forward momentum in the growth of high-quality jobs.  Tennessee is one of six states where real personal income per capita increased more than 17 percent in the last 10 years,” Pody said. 

Both Pody and Lynn expect opportunities for legislators to address educational issues in this legislative session. 

“I think what you’re going to see in this budget is a reading initiative to put a lot of resources toward kindergarten through third grade reading improvements to help every child gain the skills they need to be a successful reader,” Lynn said. 

“Among initiatives to increase work readiness is a goal to triple the number of Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM)-designated public schools by 2022, and to develop at least 100 new middle school STEM programs,” Pody said.

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