- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Five things to know about Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s $33.3 billion budget proposal:

1. K-12 EDUCATION: After canceling a planned salary hike for teachers last year because of worse-than-expected state revenues, Haslam has earmarked nearly $100 million to go toward salary improvements in the budget year starting July 1, a 4 percent increase. The money would be routed through the state’s Basic Education Program, or BEP, formula, meaning the total amount of raises would vary from district to district. Teachers are generally paid through a combination of state and local funding. The governor’s budget plan also includes about $44 million to cover growth and inflation through the BEP formula.

2. STATE EMPLOYEES: Citing findings that two out of five state workers will have qualified for retirement between 2012 and 2016, Haslam wants to revamp the way employees are compensated. One proposal is to create a $48 million pool for merit raises that would be partially funded by eliminating half of the $100-per-year longevity pay that state workers currently receive. Under existing rules, state workers can earn up to $3,000 per year in longevity bonuses that are paid out on their employment anniversary. The governor’s plan would fold half of the current bonus into workers’ base pay, and employees would then become eligible for raises of up to 3 percent depending on their performance evaluations. Legislative and judicial employees are not included in Haslam’s proposal.

3. PRISON CLOSING: Haslam plans to shutter the Charles B. Bass Correctional Complex in Nashville that currently houses about 750 inmates and the Correction Department’s sex offender program. Closing the facility would eliminate 305 prison jobs. Some inmates could wind up at a facility being built in Trousdale by private prison operators Corrections Corporation of America. The company last year agreed to finance, design, build and operate the 2,500 prison that is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

4. CHILDREN’S SERVICES: The state would cut 131 positions at the troubled Woodland Hills juvenile detention facility in Nashville as the Department of Children’s Services works to place teens in residential settings instead of secure facilities. Three major incidents at the facility last fall led the state to re-evaluate its security measures there. Thirty teens escaped on Sept. 1, followed by a riot in the yard and another breakout of 13 teens.

5. RAINY DAY FUND: The state’s emergency reserve fund would grow to $528 million under Haslam’s budget proposal, a $36 million increase over last year. The rainy day fund reached a high of $750 million in 2008, but was drawn down to as little as $284 million in 2011 as the state sought to fill budget gaps during the Great Recession.


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