- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2003

NASHVILLE, April 16 (UPI) — Two Tennessee state senators — one from each party — believe Gov. Phil Bredeson's $21.5 billion budget was dead on arrival, so they have offered their own spending plan.

They would sacrifice for a year the $26.7 million to equalize teachers' pay and add 1 percent to Bredeson's 9 percent across-the-board cuts for most state departments. Those departmental cuts would total $31.2 million.

The proposal would not cut $61 million from money to be given cities and counties as Bredeson proposed, and would restore some other cuts he recommended.

"It's pretty evident in our discussions with members that Gov. Bredeson's proposal won't pass," said Republican state Sen. Bill Clabough.

He and Democratic Sen. Jerry Cooper worked out the alternate budget.

The Tennessee Supreme Court had ordered the teacher pay equity plan, but Cooper said he thought the justices would not interfere because they set no deadline.

"I'm sure the courts would not push us in this environment of a poor economy and war," Cooper said.

Lydia Lenker, a spokeswoman for the Democratic governor, said the additional cuts would result in 800 layoffs.

"This is not the direction the governor wants to go in," Lenker said.

"It takes priority off education and causes us to break with the state mandate on teacher pay," she said. "What is being done is difficult for everybody, but everybody has to do their fair share."

Cooper said he would rather lay off state employees than shift the burden to local governments. He said they may have to resort to layoffs, or raise property taxes.

The Cooper-Clabough plan also has some other cuts. One would eliminate the state's presidential preference primary at a savings of $3.5 million.

Another would deepen the cut in funding the court system from 2.5 percent to 9 percent, but that would produce $1.8 million that would be used to add three judgeships.

The plan would also take $1.8 million from the District Attorneys General Conference's Fraud and Economic Crime Fund.

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