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TENNESSEE

Tennessee

State Recovery Act Website: http://tnrecovery.gov/

Tennessee's state Recovery Act website scored 33 out of 100 possible points (ranking 33rd) on Good Jobs First's updated 51-state study of state stimulus websites entitled Show Us the Stimulus (Again). The state earned points for breaking down stimulus allocations into broad and narrow categories, providing recipient jobs data totals by program and statewide, and for using an interactive map to link to county by county breakdowns of spending overall and by program.

For detailed scoring information, see the Tennessee appendix of Show Us the Stimulus (Again).

Coordination & Oversight

Gov. Phil Bredesen appointed Charles Harrison to manage stimulus spending, but only nine days later Harrison decided to retire from state government. Mike Morrow, the assistant finance commissioner and a 34-year veteran of state government was chosen to take his place. Morrow is managing a staff drawn from the state's Department of Finance and Administration.

Policy Debates

State Democrats attempted to block legislation that would increase the state cap on the number of charter schools and expand enrollment, but new legislation was eventually passed and signed with the support of Gov. Bredesen.  Bill opponents were personally lobbied by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who warned Tennessee might not qualify for future competitive stimulus grants if lawmakers did not change state policy on charter schools.  Critics of the legislation, including Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, worry that expanding charter schools will pull funding from financially vulnerable public schools.  Tennessee Education Association President Earl Wiman pointed out that state eligibility for the "Race to the Top" competitive grant program does not depend solely on charter school policy. Beginning this year, Tennessee is retraining teachers, changing curriculum, and using new tests and textbooks, all in a drastic attempt to raise student performance and set new educational standards.

Tennessee will receive $470 million in stimulus funds for higher education, but Gov. Bredesen argues this is a short-term fix and urges education officials to consider structural reform. Despite protests from students and faculty, 6 to 9 percent tuition and fee increases were approved.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) reports that as a result of the ARRA's incentive funds, Tennessee has modernized its unemployment insurance policy by enacting legislation which adopts the "alternative base period," authorizes part-time workers to collect benefits, and adopts dependent allowances.  Beginning in July, unemployed state workers began submitting applications for an extended benefit program which is fully funded by federal stimulus funds.  The program, which supports workers who have exhausted their emergency unemployment benefits, will run through December. NELP estimates almost 10,000 workers will exhaust these extended benefits through September, and almost 40,000 by the end of the year. Employers in Tennessee will also face higher unemployment taxes as a result of new legislation. This legislative action was taken to prevent the state Unemployment Insurance Compensation Trust Fund from becoming insolvent.

Senate Speaker Rom Ramsey, R-Blountville, (who may run for governor in 2010) questions the governor's plans to use federal stimulus funds to ease the severity of state cuts. Ramsey believes that the federal stimulus will make things worse for the state after the two-year stimulus expires. Ramsey feels confident that deeper state cuts may be necessary sooner because of the state's dire economic situation. Democrats have criticized the Senate Speaker on his stance on the stimulus.

Knoxville entrepreneur Doug Horn gave up a plan to run for governor next year on a tax reform platform, saying that the availability of stimulus money will reduce the need for drastic budget cuts and thus removed the climate for reform he planned to run on.

Last updated on: 27 January, 2010

Quick Facts

Population:
6,214,888

Median Household Income:
$42,367

Unemployment Rate:
10.8%

Poverty Rate:
15.9%

Estimated Recovery Act Funding:
$4.4 billion

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