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By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

The Hartsville/Trousdale County Chamber of Commerce welcomed State Senator Ferrell Haile as its guest speaker for its July 2 meeting.

“It’s always a joy coming to Trousdale County; I certainly identify out here much more,” Haile said. “I appreciate you having me out here to speak to you.”

Haile, who has represented Trousdale County in the Tennessee Senate since 2013, spoke on Tennessee’s fiscal situation. Haile, who also serves as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate, serves on the Finance, Ways & Means Committee.

Haile cited a U.S. News report that rated Tennessee as the No. 1 state in the country in terms of fiscal stability and that the state’s “rainy day fund” had been increased to $1.1 billion.

“We put more in the rainy day fund this year and any year before,” Haile said. “It’s taken a long time to build that back.”

Haile also promoted Tennessee’s AAA bond rating and the fact that Tennessee has taken on no new debt in three years. Tennessee’s retirement plan also rates among the top three nationally, according to the senator, at 95 to 98 percent fully funded.

Tennessee is also the lowest-taxed state per capita nationally, according to Haile.

He also noted that Tennessee had eliminated the professional fee on 15 different occupations and continues to phase out the Hall income tax, part of $845 million in tax cuts since 2011.

“Our dollars do reflect our priorities,” Haile said of the state’s $38.5 billion budget for 2019-20. “Education, TennCare, corrections, transportation – those four categories take up over 80 percent of the budget.”

Haile said he favored a bill passed earlier this year allowing Tennessee to request a block grant in Medicaid funds as opposed to the current status of funding on a per-patient basis.

“All it meant is we want to have a discussion about that,” he said. “There are parameters in the bill that if there are increases in expenditures, population… then we’re still covered as we would be under the current law.”

Asked about the possibility of adjusting state education funding to reduce the impact of fiscal capacity on Trousdale County, Haile said he doubted there was the political will among legislators to do so as the funding formula under the Basic Education Program (BEP) has been a subject of past lawsuits.

Trousdale County Schools are expected to lose $429,000 in funding in 2019-20 because of increased fiscal capacity (ability to pay on the county’s part).

Haile’s district covers Trousdale and Sumner counties and a portion of Davidson County. He will be up for re-election in 2020.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.