State Rep. Dan Howell (R-Cleveland), who represents Meigs County, said he thought Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address covered several topics that he found to be interesting.
“One of the things that jumped out to me was that the governor stated that we were one of seven states that actually grew our economy slightly during COVID,” he said. “Even though unemployment jumped to 15-1/2%, it is now back down to 6.4% but I appreciate the governor commending the legislature for its conservative budget.”
He believes the budget that was set last year prevented the state from going into the red.
“I think we are in a pretty good spot from what I can see,” Howell stated. “Another that he mentioned that I enjoyed is that Tennessee is about to be celebrating its 225th year of statehood, so I’m sure that next year we will see and hear a lot about that celebration.”
He believes that quite a bit can be said about a person, corporation or a state’s priorities by what they spend their money on.
“I think Tennessee can be judged pretty fairly by what we have traditionally and what we intend to spend our money on,” he expressed. “In this next budget cycle, the governor kind of laid out his proposal for that ... I think he gave us a good roadmap to go by.”
Another surprise to Howell was the increase of the state’s “rainy day fund” to over $1 billion.
“In this budget he wants to take the rainy day fund and the TennCare reserve fund and put them up to $2 billion,” Howell noted. “That would be the highest in state history, so those are good, conservative financial leadership policies that I am pretty excited for.”
He noted that the governor’s budget is focused on investing in people, education, health, business and jobs.
“We are investing in seeds and the state’s health care safety net, for example, he has proposed several million dollars to go into that safety net,” Howell pointed out. “He also expressed interest in providing $20 million to small businesses, which is important because when you look at the statistics, historically, small businesses provide the most jobs. Seventy percent of our jobs in America are provided by small business, so if we are going to invest in our economy it just makes since that we invest in small business.”
The final topic that caught Howell’s attention was the governor’s proposal to invest $900 million in capital maintenance.
“That would help fix the backlog of maintenance problems with state buildings,” he said. “We have several state buildings in Nashville and across the State of Tennessee, plus we have a lot of university buildings across the state that have deferred maintenance issues, so he is saying that we have to get these fixed up because it is going to cost us a whole lot more in the future if we do not take care of this now.”
That funding will also be used to maintain parks as well.
“He is proposing that we invest $30 million in catching up with our state parks and bringing them up to speed because during this pandemic Tennesseans, are going out to their state parks in record numbers,” he noted. “Our citizens really like the state parks and I think it was great for the governor to propose that idea along with the rest of his address ... It was just a really good speech.”