State Surplus

Talk abounds lately of the anticipated surplus in state revenue, along with various proposals for how to use it. From today’s Tennessean:

Items that lawmakers want to use the extra money for include: an incentive for moviemakers to come to Tennessee to film hit movies; a boost for higher education; more money for hospital trauma centers; and relief for state taxpayers.

Higher Education would certainly be one good suggestion, since that area has been notably neglected in the last few years. The shortfall has been made up, of course, by steep tuition hikes and things like larger classes or fewer course offerings.

I haven’t seen published reports of anyone in Nashville suggesting some relief to the state’s public school systems, other than a slight increase in BEP funding for at-risk and ESL students that was proposed long before any talk of a budget surplus. It would certainly please me to see someone stand up in the Legislature and make the case for directing the money toward covering State mandates that now fall more heavily than ever on local government.

Even if it were in the form of one-time assistance rather than a change in recurring allocations, it would help. Anything that is required by the State but paid for, in whole or in part, by local government is undisputedly a burden on the taxpayer — and any assistance given by the state lightens that burden on the local taxpayer.

Perhaps the only reason no one’s talking about it is that it would be too hard for the Legislature to claim credit, and most ordinary folks would see it as the efficiency of their local government instead.

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