Iris Rudder headshot

The 111th General Assembly just passed a common-sense conservative budget this year, and I would like to give you an overview of it so you will have a better understanding of how your tax dollars are spent.

The budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year in Tennessee is about $38 billion dollars.

Planning for this budget began last fall when each agency produced its budget for the coming year.

After reviewing the information provided by these agencies, the governor presents a recommended budget to the Legislature.

This typically happens on Feb. 1, but this year it was presented March 4 due to the beginning of a new gubernatorial term.

The Legislature receives the proposed budget and then holds hearings with each agency. Ultimately, the Legislature is responsible for passing the budget each year.

So where does the $38 billion dollars come from:

• $18.6 billion, which is 48.3 percent of the total budget, comes from sales tax revenue. This is certainly a whole lot of money, but it is important to remember that Tennessee is a very low-tax state. We are consistently ranked the 47th lowest taxed state. This is a tradition I am proud of and will do my best to continue.

• $14 billion comes from the federal government and is the second largest source of funds at 36.4 percent of the budget. The state has to be careful when accepting federal funds because they often come with strings attached, and those strings may or may not be compatible with Tennessee values and priorities.

• $3.9 billion from current services which is 10.1 percent of revenue

• $1.9 billion from tuition and student fees which is 4.9 percent

• $100 million from bonds at .3 percent

Where does the money go?

Just like your household, where you spend your money is a good indicator of your priorities. It is the same with Tennessee.

Education receives the largest appropriations of state tax revenue, but on a total budget basis, TennCare receives the most revenue.

Below are the top five expenses which comprise more than 80 percent of the budget.

•TennCare – $12.3 billion

•Education – $11.4 billion

•Social Services – $5.1 billion

• Transportation – $2.3 billion

•Corrections – $1.1 billion

•Total of top five expenses: $32.2 billion

Taxes are not the only area where Tennessee outperforms compared to the federal government.

Take debt, for instance. There are many ways to measure debt. Some of the common ones are as a percentage of population, personal income, and per capita.

But in Tennessee, it does not matter which method you use. Tennessee is among the lowest in the country.

In fact, a recent report stated that our debt is the lowest in the country by one measure.

It is also worth noting that Tennessee does not run an annual budget deficit. Unlike the federal government, we balance our budget.

The General Assembly had the citizens of Tennessee in mind when we passed this common-sense conservative budget.

We reduced taxes while providing essential services — including fully funding the Basic Education Program and providing raises for teachers.

We have provided for job creation and economic development while also assisting rural communities with broadband access.

Perhaps most importantly, we have made the largest deposit to the rainy-day fund in the state’s history, bringing the balance to $1.1 billion.

Being prudent in good times is how the majority of Tennesseans live, and I believe you should expect your government to do the same.

As always, I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your state representative.

I look forward to continuing the good work that has been accomplished in the first half of the 111th General Assembly when the legislature returns in January 2020.

Iris Rudder is a former Franklin County commissioner who is now the Tennessee House District 39 representative.