Breakfast with the Legislators, 1/29/07

This morning marked the first of the Breakfast with the Legislators meetings, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge.

Senator McNally, recently named Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, noted that among the General Assembly’s first tasks will be receipt of the Governor’s roughly $28 billion budget.  Other issues expected to surface quickly are a proposed increase in the tobacco tax (currently, one of the lowest in the nation), and adjustments to the BEP — the State’s formula for funding public K-12 education.  The General Assembly is also likely to consider an income cap for the property tax freeze for seniors, which passed as a constitutional amendment last year, and potentially a minimum wage discussion.

Jim Hackworth noted that he and Dennis Ferguson (Roane Co.) had worked previously on getting the widening of Highway 58/95 (the west end of the turnpike out to Horizon Center) on track, and that those efforts would continue.  He also told the group that gas tax revenues (allocated for road projects) have not risen — that as the cost of fuel increases, people buy less, and tax revenues remain flat.  Given that the cost of labor and materials does not remain static, the availability of funds to complete such projects is dwindling.

Both McNally and Hackworth addressed the subject of education funding, with the consensus being that it’s more likely they’ll increase funding for at-risk students and those who speak English as a second language than to completely overhaul the formula.  This seems consistent with the Governor’s message as well.

One of the topics brought up by a questioner involved the lottery scholarships, as relates to a letter to the editor in this morning’s News-Sentinel (Slight deviations can disqualify good students, third letter down).  Not all students who lose the lottery scholarship do so for lack of good grades or enrollment, it seems.  I just heard from Alpha today that a math honors student at UT lost his scholarship because he earned too many credits during a summer internship.

McNally and Hackworth agreed that the system isn’t perfect, and will require some adjustment.

Other concerns raised by audience members were the long lines at the ballot box last August, the need for a dedicated revenue stream for Pre-K funding, and questions about how education foundations might affect BEP funding (it doesn’t).

The next Breakfast with the Legislators will be on Feb. 26 at the Civic Center, and is open to the public.  If you have questions, come on down!

2 Responses to “Breakfast with the Legislators, 1/29/07”

  1. on 29 Jan 2007 at 8:05 pm Joel

    Hey, netmom. Ed, over at the forum, suggests that the lottery funds could also be used to support high school kids who want to go on to vocational training. What do you think of that idea?

  2. on 29 Jan 2007 at 8:16 pm Netmom

    I think that’s already part of the lottery scholarships in place: the Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant.

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