The yearly State of the State address took place Monday night in Nashville.
Gov. Bill Lee delivered the address for the first time since he took office as Tennessee’s 50th governor.
“This is a remarkable state with remarkable people, but past success should not be taken for granted and future success should not be assumed,” Lee said in front of the audience that included both chambers of the General Assembly.
Lee proposed a $38.55 billion budget for this fiscal year. However, the General Assembly will have to approve the proposal.
The governor proposed several education investments including $25 million in state funds for private education and $25 million for an occupational training program. Similarly, he proposed $10.5 million for education for prisoners.
“Members of the legislature now is the time,” Lee said. “Let’s make sure this is the year that every student in Tennessee has a chance at a great education, no matter where they live.”
Lee discussed changing the criminal justice system in Tennessee.
“The punishment for violent crime must be swift and severe, but we must also get better at helping those who will be released prepare to re-enter society, not re-enter prison,” Lee said.
He wants to create a mentorship program that pairs degree-seeking inmates with everyday Tennesseans. Furthermore, he wants to help reduce the number of people returning to prison after being released.
Health Care and Rural Development
Lee proposed attempts to reduce health care costs. He discussed spending over $8 million in encouraging students to work in more rural areas in Tennessee. In addition, he talked about creating new positions in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
A $20 million proposal is to improve access to healthcare in rural areas due to hospital closures.
Lee discussed helping those who struggle with mental illnesses, allowing $11 million of his budget to increase the state’s behavioral health safety net for those who do not have insurance.
“By increasing the supply of care that reflects the needs of rural communities we will be driving down the overall cost of care,” Lee said.
Lee acknowledged the Tennesseans hit by flooding due to the rainfall in February.
“Our hearts are with those hurting families, and with all others who are still cleaning up, even tonight,” Lee said.
After presenting his first State of the State address, the audience gave Lee a standing ovation.
Edited by Ciera Noe and Kaitlin Flippo
Featured image by Ron Cogswell, courtesy of Creative Commons