The 2019 legislative session was incredibly successful, thanks to conservative leadership in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
My colleagues and I led on several important issues this year, passing one of the most fiscally responsible budgets in state history. It invests $239 million into the Rainy Day fund, bringing the state savings account up to a total of $1.1 billion. The budget also fully funds the Katie Beckett Waiver program, which provides life-saving medical services through TennCare for children with the most significant disabilities and highest medical needs, regardless of parental income levels. Finally, our budget cuts more than $35.2 million in taxes and preserves Tennessee’s AAA bond rating.
This year, we also made record-breaking investments in education, building upon our recent gains. An $11.3 billion total investment — including $6.6 billion in K-12 funding — will support our students, teachers and schools so every child has an opportunity to obtain a high quality education. This investment allocates $71 million to fund teacher salaries, $39.4 million for the state’s Basic Education Program to cover growth and inflation within the program, $40 million to secure our schools and $25 million to expand vocational and technical training opportunities for our future leaders.
Additionally, we worked to improve access and the quality of care available to our citizens through the comprehensive CARE Plan. This plan is designed to transform healthcare through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems and Empowering patients to guarantee individuals and families can make all medical decisions instead of insurance companies or the government. As part of this plan, we paved the way for Tennessee to create a patient-centered system of care through the implementation of block grants. These block grants must convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for Tennessee into an allotment that is tailored to meet our specific needs. This will empower Tennesseans, their loved ones and their doctors to be in charge of all healthcare decisions with limited government interference.
Finally, we began what will become a much larger discussion about criminal justice reform. As part of this discussion, we provided significant tools for our law enforcement communities to get fentanyl and other deadly, synthetic drugs off our streets. We also passed legislation that saves taxpayers approximately $13.7 million on incarceration costs, cracks down on bad actors and assists those with a strong desire to overcome their prior mistakes. This year, we removed state fees on records expunction for those who have successfully completed a diversion program and we created a statewide payment plan for individuals who submit proof of their inability to pay fines, taxes, or court costs on citations and have had their licenses suspended. This will allow them to obtain restricted drivers licenses so they can work, pursue their education, or attend church. The overall goal is to ensure accountability while also supporting rehabilitation efforts as these individuals work towards prosperity.
Tennessee is leading the national on several important issues. However, there is more work to be done in the coming days, weeks, and months ahead. It is an incredible honor to serve as House Majority Leader and to represent our community; I am humbled by your support, and I thank you for your continued prayers. May God bless you, your families and this great state.
William Lamberth is the House Majority Leader for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. He is also a member of the House Finance, House Government Operations, and House Calendar & Rules Committees, as well as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Lamberth lives in Portland and represents Tennessee House District 44, which includes part of Sumner County.