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The Great Smoky Mountain Journal

Source:  GSMJ, WIRES

Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2019 02:25 PM

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Gov. Haslam Makes Final State Of The State Address

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam made his final state of the state address Monday night to the Volunteer State he has presided over as governor for the past 7 years.

Opening his address, Governor Haslam said, "I will always be grateful that the people of Tennessee gave me this chance to be what I will always think is the best job in the whole world."

Haslam reflected on the changes that had taken place in Tennessee since his election seven years ago.

"Seven years later, it's time to ask ourselves, 'How are we doing on competing with the very best?' and the answer is, I think we are doing very well," Haslam reflected.

Haslam cited economic, educational and other policy reforms that took place during his time as Tennessee Governor as gains the state had made in that time.

"The kind of progress we are talking about has not happened for many other states," Haslam said. "Tennessee's success didn't just happen, we didn't just get lucky. [...] Because of the effectiveness of our work, Tennessee is in a better place than it has ever been before."

Haslam outlined his goals for the state's future, saying the state was on the path to becoming a leader for the nation.

Haslam then reflected on legislation that passed during his time as governor, including the Improve Act that focused on infrastructure improvements, along with the economic impact and jobs the legislation provided. He also recalled transformations the state's education system underwent while he has been in office, such as through the Tennessee Promise and Reconnect Programs, which allow Tennesseans to attend college.

"Together we have made the right calls, the tough calls, on the policies that we have pursued. And now, we can prove that the calls we made were right," Haslam said.

Haslam continued by discussing the new program he signed into legislation, the TN Together program, which is a comprehensive plan to end the opioid crisis in Tennessee.

He also announced the Compete to Complete initiative for higher education in Tennessee, as well as plans to bring reforms to the state's juvenile justice system.

The governor proposed a $37.5 billion budget, which he said focuses on jobs, education and "efficient and effective government."

According to a release from Governor Haslam's office, notable budget investments include more than $200 million in new state funding for K-12 education, including additional funds for teacher compensation; nearly $100 million for higher education initiatives; $128 million for job growth investments, including programs that target rural communities; and increases to bring the state's Rainy Day Fund to $850 million.