A Conservative Budget for Tennessee
BY RON SHULTIS
For several decades and under the control of both Republicans and Democrats, Tennessee has been known for its fiscally conservative budgeting. Years of limited spending and low taxes have kept hundreds of millions of dollars in the pockets of Tennessee taxpayers that might otherwise have gone to government bloat. In fact, according to the Tax Foundation, Tennessee residents pay less in taxes than anyone in the country. Conservative budgeting has not only helped Tennessee taxpayers, but it also positioned the state to enter the COVID-19 crisis with a relatively strong “rainy day fund” of $1.1 billion, or seven percent of the state’s general fund expenditures. Tennessee remains in a strong financial position as its economy has bounced back stronger than the national average post-pandemic. Conservative budgeting and sound policy during the pandemic contributed to such strong tax revenues that the state had an unprecedented $2.1 billion surplus in the latest fiscal year despite the crisis.
But future good times are no guarantee—and that’s why, whether in good or bad times, Tennessee families practice priority-based budgeting, making tough choices on how to spend their hard-earned dollars. If Tennessee is to remain an economic powerhouse, policymakers must also continue to make fiscally conservative choices, resist the temptation for excessive spending, and not make it overly difficult for Tennessee taxpayers to fund their state government.
Ron Shultis, Director of Policy and Research for the Beacon Center, commented about the report: “Tennessee has been a fiscal leader for decades but it is important that we not rest on our laurels or take that for granted. The Conservative Tennessee Budget sets the standard for staying a national leader. By ensuring spending doesn’t grow more than population plus inflation, state government won’t become more of a burden on taxpayers.”
Vance Ginn, chief economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and co-author of the report, stated, “Any increase in the state budget should be less than the average taxpayer’s ability to pay for it, as measured by population growth plus inflation, which is why the Conservative Tennessee Budget is essential for continued opportunities that best let people prosper. We have seen the success of this approach in Texas for a number of years so I’m excited to partner with the Beacon Center in this fruitful endeavor to keep Tennessee a great place to raise a family and start a business.”