- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014
Board: Higher Education budget in limbo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Members of the Tennessee Board of Regents said Friday that they don’t know how much money the state’s universities and community colleges are going to receive in the budget because of a shortfall in tax collections.

The board oversees six state universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology. The schools do not include the University of Tennessee system.

Officials said at a quarterly board meeting Friday that the best case scenario for the schools would be to get the almost $6.6 million Gov. Bill Haslam allocated to them in his budget. Figures presented at the meeting showed that the Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommended that the schools get a little more than $21 million in the budget.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey told reporters Thursday that planned pay raises for state employees and investment in higher education might have to be cut because of a $260 million shortfall of projected revenue through the first seven months of the budget. Haslam is expected to release a revised spending proposal next week that would address the shortfall.

Traditionally, public colleges and universities raise tuition when they get less money in the budget.

Haslam acknowledged the funding challenge after a higher education summit Thursday that was organized by the Nashville Business Roundtable. The governor said he was trying to “prioritize higher ed funding.” But he also said that the state has to live within the limits of the funds that it has, even though the funding levels for higher education isn’t where he would like it to be.


Ex-candidate ‘shocked’ by Wamp recording visit

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Former congressional hopeful Scottie Mayfield says he was surprised when candidate Weston Wamp showed up at his home to ask him not to endorse incumbent Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and he was shocked when Wamp texted that he had secretly recorded the conversation.

“I just think that’s not appropriate,” Mayfield, a retired dairy executive, said in a phone interview. “I found it kind of unbelievable that he had come into my home unannounced with a recording device.”

Mayfield, who came in second in the 2012 GOP primary, said the visit came the weekend before he made his public endorsement of Fleischmann in the 3rd District race on March 17.

Mayfield said Wamp, who finished third in the previous race, questioned why Mayfield was getting involved after previously saying he would remain neutral. Mayfield said he had changed his mind when he heard that Wamp and his father, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, were telling potential contributors that Mayfield was supporting the Wamp bid.

“I needed to clear the air and tell people who I was voting for,” he said.

Wamp in a press release acknowledged recording the conversation with his iPhone.


Ramsey: Pay raises, higher ed funding face cuts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says worse-than-expected revenue collections could force Tennessee to cancel planned pay raises for state employees and reduce planned investments in higher education.

The Blountville Republican told reporters at his weekly news conference on Thursday that he would prefer finding the savings among bigger ticket items rather “the little nickel-and-dime issues where you just stir up constituencies and there’s no big saving there.”

Fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to release his revised spending proposal next week.

The state’s general fund revenues have fallen $260 million short of projections through the first seven months of the budget year, and estimates for the budget year beginning in July will have to be readjusted depending how deep that hole ends up.

Haslam acknowledged the funding challenge after a higher education summit organized by the Nashville Business Roundtable on Thursday.

“We’re obviously trying to prioritize higher ed funding,” he said. But he added that “we have to live within the limits of the funds we have … even though we’re not still funding it at a level we’d like to.”


Former police chief gets diversion for misconduct

MONTEREY, Tenn. (AP) - A former Monterey Police chief will serve no prison time after entering a best interest guilty plea on a misconduct charge involving a surplus bulldozer.

Kevin Phillips ordered the Army bulldozer in 2012 through a program meant for law enforcement. A state comptroller’s report found the bulldozer was instead used to clear property Phillips owned. Investigators found Phillips and the former mayor back-dated a lease agreement for the machine after citizens questioned it.

The Cookeville Herald-Citizen reports (https://bit.ly/1gzYjD3) the plea agreement grants Phillips judicial diversion and a possible clean record after two years.

Philips resigned in March 2013, ahead of a hearing to determine whether he would be fired.

The bulldozer eventually was sold for $53,000, and the town used the money to help pay off the police department building.

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