State senator enlightens audience on legislative matters

State Senator John Stevens

The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce’s Capitol Talk session on the morning of Feb. 10 at the Carroll County Civic Center featured state Senator John Stevens of Huntingdon who represents the 24th Senatorial District of which Carroll County is a part.

Stevens, serves as 1st vice chair of both the Finance Ways and Means and the Ethics Committees. The Finance Committee is responsible for taxes and raising revenue. The Ethics Committee deals with enforcement of the Senate Code of Ethics. He also serves on the Judiciary, Transportation and Safety Committees.

In his third term, the senator said Gov. Bill Lee is doing a tremendous job.

“It’s a good time to live in Tennessee and Carroll County,” he said.

The proposed fiscal year 2023 state budget is $52.5 billion, of which $26.4 billion is state appropriations, with $19.8 billion in federal funding, $4.4 billion from other departmental revenues, $2.0 billion in higher education student tuition and fees and $83.5 million in bonds.

The governor proposes to overhaul the funding formula for K-12 education, called “Funding for Student Success.” The legislation will incentivize strategic and efficient spending to accelerate student achievement.

To fund the legislation in the future, the governor has proposed adding $750,000,000. For the 2022-2023 Fiscal year, however, $500,000,000 is recommended to provide innovative career and technical education grants to all high and middle schools in the state and $200,000,000 will be used to relocate schools located in flood p pains, like in Waverly.

The savings account is the highest ever, he said.

“It’s a great opportunity to do a lot of things,” he said. “Infrastructure needs are important for keeping things in a good state of repair.

The legislature is not over committing the people of the state by starting a lot of new programs, he advised. State employee wages will be raised by 4 percent.

Roads and infrastructure items will receive a boost. The Camden interchange will be among the upgrades.

Stevens described himself as a fiscal conservative.

He wants fair treatment for agriculture producers with sales tax being eliminated as is done for manufacturers.

He is for doing away with the New Market tax credit of $400 that is charged doctors and lawyers.

During the question and answer period, Huntingdon Public Safety Director Walter Smothers and Carroll County Sheriff Andy Dickson ask about the civil asset forfeiture bill. Stevens said law enforcement might pull someone over who had lots of money that was suspected to be from drug sales. The money is held for a certain period of time and if it is not picked up, it becomes the property of the law enforcement agency.

McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland said several years ago, it was intended that a tire shredder be placed in each county, but that has not been the case. Stevens said he was unfamiliar with it, but would check on it. Holland said she was also concerned that the state was  not returning its fair share of sales tax to the cities.

Chamber president Brad Hurley questioned if there was a long range plan on paying for roads rather than putting on a tax at the gas pumps.

Stevens said the transportation committee doesn’t want to use general funds for roads and had rather pay cash for the upkeep of roads.

The senator said Tennessee is in the top three lowest states debt wise.

At the close of the session, Stevens said he was surprised that no one had said anything about the fact the governor placed the $11 million payoff of the Carroll County 1,000 acre lake in the budget this year. This amount is in the governor’s proposed budget that is still discussed in committee meetings. TWRA is suppose to take over the operation of the lake, he said.

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