Education, budget will continue to be top priorities
House Speaker Beth Harwell
Jan 20, 2014 at 9:42 AM
We have kicked off another legislative session, and I am looking forward to coming together with my colleagues to work on the issues important to Tennesseans. There is no doubt that this year will be challenging, but I believe we are up to the task.We already know putting the state budget together for 2014 will be difficult. Revenues are coming in below estimates, which means there will have to be some trimming to the budget. But rest assured, unlike Washington, D.C., we balance the budget every year, and we will do so without raising taxes. Just as you must live within your means, so must we. I never lose sight of the fact that it is not our money, it’s taxpayer money, and we must be fiscally responsible.One of the most important things we fund in the budget is K-12 education. I know Gov. Bill Haslam shares this priority, and we will be working to craft something that gives schools all the tools they need to succeed. We recently received excellent news on the education front: the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the “Nation’s Report Card,” showed Tennessee was the fastest improving state in the nation — and further, our state posted the largest gains in a single testing cycle ever in NAEP’s history, since they began tracking assessments a decade ago. We do not need to hit the brakes now; we need to build on this momentum.In that same vein, the governor announced a few months ago that he plans to make Tennessee teachers’ salaries the fastest-growing in the country over the next five years. My House colleagues and I look forward to helping him make this a reality.Beyond crafting a responsible budget, we will be looking at ways to encourage job growth and improve Tennessee’s economic outlook. In many cases, this means rolling back harmful laws and regulations that hamper your ability to start or grow a business. Tennessee is fortunate to have a strong foundation of small business owners who keep our economy afloat. In fact, there are over 552,653 small businesses in Tennessee. Together, they employ more than 2.4 million Tennesseans — over a third of the state’s population. Ensuring they have the ability to grow and thrive means jobs for the hardworking folks of this state.We will be listening to your thoughts and input in the coming months as we tackle these issues in the 2014 legislative session. It is important that Tennesseans are engaged, and reach out to their elected officials on issues of importance to them. Serving in the legislature requires sacrifice on the part of your elected officials, especially here in Upper East Tennessee. Your representatives spend four days a week, several months a year away from their families and jobs to serve in Nashville. Once there, they put in long hours to serve you. I know they do it for the right reasons — to serve and give Washington County a voice in your Tennessee General Assembly.House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, presides over the Tennessee House of Representatives. She can be reached at email@example.com, or (615) 741-0709.