Governor Haslam Calls For $55M More For Tennessee Roads, $50M For State Library

Apr 25, 2017

Governor Bill Haslam is calling for spending $55 million more next year to jumpstart road construction — as well as millions more for mental health, disability service providers and a new Library & Archives building — as part of a supplemental spending plan released Tuesday morning.

The budget measure is one of the last things state lawmakers consider before adjourning for the year.

Updating the proposed budget released in January, the Haslam administration says there's $125 million more to spend than previously thought. That means it can start spending immediately on road improvements, instead of waiting for additional gas tax revenue to trickle in.

Governor Haslam also recommends putting $40 million in tax dollars toward a new state library. The Secretary of State's office, which oversees the library, would add in $10 million more from a savings account.

The goal is to build a modern research library near the new State Museum now under construction on Bicentennial Mall, says Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

"We're going to be able to accommodate not only small groups of researchers who tend to use the library and archives, but school groups and college groups that come through. It's going to be a tremendous resource to showcase our Tennessee history, just like the museum is."

The state archives are currently held in a 65-year-old building next to the Capitol. Officials say its climate control system is outdated, and it doesn't have enough public exhibition or storage space.

Those would be solved by a new building. But the total cost of the project is an estimated $98 million. Hargett hopes to get the rest next year.

The budget amendment also calls for putting $2 million more toward mental health prevention and treatment programs and $8 million toward increasing pay for disability services providers. There's also more than $3.3 million in sales tax relief for Gatlinburg and Sevier County, and $11.8 million to compensate the Tennessee Valley Authority for whitewater boating on the Ocoee River.

The Haslam administration says better-than-expected tax collections and government savings makes the extra spending possible. But there are some gray clouds on the horizon. The Haslam administration announced earlier this week that March's tax revenues had missed projections for the first time in years.

Lawmakers hope to finish the state budget by the second week in May.