NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee wants all state commissioners to consider what a 1-percent spending reduction would look like in their departments.
His words came as the annual November rite of the governor’s state budget hearings began Monday.
Topics included efforts to reduce the state’s prison population and how the tariff war with China is affecting business recruitment.
The nearly six hours Monday of hearings from various departments is actually the second such event since the governor had budget hearings shortly after taking office in January.
“Our cost to taxpayers to house inmates is rising,” said the governor during one of the question-and-answer periods with reporters in between one of the departmental hearings.
Because of that, reducing sentences for non-violent inmates like drug offenders has long been a goal of Bill Lee as both a candidate and now Tennessee’s Republican governor.
Governor Lee said it is not something that happens overnight with changes in laws required and careful spending in areas that might reduce inmate populations like prison education programs.
“Its a very big system…with a lot of incarcerated folks so those changes come slowly but it’s terribly important that we invest in that,” added the governor.
While the governor asked each department at these hearings to present what a 1-percent budget cut would look like, commissioners brought concerns of their respective departments.
The economic and community development commissioner cites uncertainty from the tariff war between China and the United States as holding up potential job recruitment for the state.
“Anecdotally and directionally that would be thousands of jobs and would be hundreds of millions of dollars of cap-ex (capital expenditures),” said Commissioner Bob Rolfe.
On Tuesday, there will be a presentation from one of the largest state departments, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).
This week’s hearings will wrap up Wednesday with TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program for lower-income people.
The agency is annually about 30-percent of the state budget.