News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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State employees, teachers won’t get pay increase

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that he won’t be able to give state employees and teachers a pay increase next year mainly because of reductions due to an ongoing decline in revenue collections, which state officials are looking into.

The Republican governor discussed his budget proposal with reporters Monday. The state finance commissioner was to present the measure to legislative finance committees Tuesday.

Haslam said poor revenue collections are forcing him to make $150 million in reductions for the remainder of this budget year that ends June 30th, and $160 million for next year. Sales tax collections have fallen short by $33 million, and franchise and excise taxes - also known as business tax collections - are down $215 million.

The governor said state officials are investigating to try to find out why collections continue to fall short of projections.

“It’s our job to be digging to try to figure out is something changed fundamentally about that business or have they found a way to lower their tax payments to us,” he said.

Despite the low revenue collections, Haslam said he expects about $73 million in new revenue growth, of which $62 million will go to education. He said he also plans to spend $155 million on TennCare, the state’s expanded Medicaid program that covers 1.2 million Tennesseans.

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House votes to clear way for Rocky Top name change

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The state House has voted to allow Lake City to change its name to Rocky Top despite ongoing legal efforts by the rights owners of the bluegrass standard to block the move.

The chamber on Monday voted 89-0 in favor of the measure sponsored by Republican Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge, who said the state would not be liable if the Gatlinburg-based House of Bryant wins its lawsuit.

If the Senate goes along with bill, Lake City could vote to make the name change official.

“Rocky Top” is the fight song of the University of Tennessee and is one of several state songs. And as one co-sponsor pointed out to jeers from his colleagues, it was also the name of an FBI bribery sting of state lawmakers in 2005.

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Dickel sues Tenn. over liquor storage requirement

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