Tennessee lawmakers passed the final version of a $31.5 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year Monday night, earning praise from Republican members of the GOP-controlled General Assembly.
The plan, which includes $50 million in tax cuts, was approved in a 64-28 House vote and 31-2 in the Senate. It now awaits the signature of Gov. Bill Haslam.
The budget restores a total of $110 million to $160 million in cuts originally planned for "core services" that had been first identified as reductions in last year's budget. The cuts were delayed to this year because of the use of one-time federal funds.
The new budget also takes into account an across-the-board 2.5 percent pay raise for state employees and cuts the tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent. Additionally, it begins a four-year phasing out of Tennessee's estate tax.
Other notable items in the budget include the addition of $50 million to the state's rainy day fund and approval for the closure of the Taft Youth Development Center, located 50 miles from Chattanooga in Pikeville.
In a news release, House Speaker Beth Harwell complimented her fellow lawmakers for passing a balanced budget, nearly $400 million lower than last year's.
"Unlike Washington, D.C., we balance our budget every year—a feat that does not come easily," Harwell said. "In addition to these cuts, we were still able to provide more tax relief for Tennesseans than any year of my tenure, reduce the budget by 2 percent and put $50 million away for a rainy day."
House Majority Leader and Chattanooga Rep. Gerald McCormick said he was pleased with the final product, passed after days of back-and-forth between lawmakers.
"We trimmed the fat from the budget and made government more efficient while still funding priorities like education and health, keeping our promise to voters," he said.
Lawmakers are expected to conclude business for the 107th General Assembly sometime this week.