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Gov. Bill Lee delivers sixth State of the State address

Bill Lee
Gov. Bill Lee delivers his sixth State of the State address to the Tennessee General Assembly in the House chamber. Photo by Nicole Hestser / The Tennessean

Gov. Bill Lee delivered his sixth State of the State address, presenting budget and legislative goals for the upcoming year in a joint session of the General Assembly on Feb. 6.  

“Tennessee is a remarkable place with a richness of passionate people of all kinds, an unrivaled culture and deep-rooted traditions,” Lee said. “We are also a state that is focused on opportunity, security and freedom for all of her people. So, in 2024, and frankly for the remainder of my time in office, I believe our job is to fortify that which has been built over the years, and to remember the work it took to get here.”   

Lee’s proposed $52.6 billion budget focuses on issues including advancing rural opportunity, keeping the state a business-friendly climate, continuing the state’s legacy of fiscal responsibility and economic prosperity, and expanding his Education Freedom Scholarships program, also known as the school voucher program.  

Key highlights of the budget include: 

  • $20 million investment in Tennessee’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing Tennessee reserves to more than $2 billion, the largest in state history  
  • $410 million recurring funding and $1.2 billion non-recurring funding to simplify the franchise tax in Tennessee   
  • More than $261 million to strengthen education through the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) formula growth, including teacher pay raises 
  • $30 million for summer learning programs to support students between school years 
  • $3.2 million dedicated to AP Access for All, which provides AP courses to students across rural and urban Tennessee 
  • $2.5 million to strengthen students’ reading and phonics skills 
  • $577,000 to ensure we train Tennessee teachers to be the best and brightest educators of Tennessee children 
  • $15 million to fund charter school facility improvements 
  • $141.5 million to establish Education Freedom Scholarships to empower parents with the freedom to pick the right school for their child 
 Healthcare and Wellness   
  • $208 million over five years from TennCare shared savings to strengthen rural health by investing in apprenticeships and skilled training, greater access to specialty care and telemedicine, improved career pathways, hospital and physician practice grants, and a new Center of Excellence to sustain and expand rural health support. 
  • $100 million over five years from TennCare shared savings to strengthen mental health care by investing in community mental health centers and behavioral health hospitals, expanding substance abuse disorder treatment, intensive in-home supports, primary care training, early childhood training, and children’s hospital infrastructure.  
  • $26.7 million investment in services for Tennesseans with disabilities 
  • Combining the Commission on Aging and Disability and Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities into the new Department of Disability and Aging  
  • $17 million in funding for an additional 60 State Troopers and related support staff to improve public safety across the state 
  • $8 million to expand the school-based behavioral health liaison program to fund 114 liaisons, giving students across Tennessee schools important resources and mental health support 
  • $750,000 to fund Houses of Worship Security Grants 
  • Funding for a National Guard recruitment incentive package   
Environment and Conservation   
  • $63 million to create four new Tennessee State Parks, with the goal of funding a total of eight new state parks by the time Gov. Lee leaves office, tying a Tennessee record for the most state parks created by one administration 
  • $20 million to expand blueway trail access, which will drive tourism and economic activity across our rural communities  
  • $20 million to improve water quality at rivers, lakes and streams across the state, making them safe for future generations to enjoy and the Bill Dance Signature Lakes Fishing Trail 
  • $25 million to establish the Farmland Conservation Fund, partnering with farmers to place a conservation easement on their land to preserve and protect Tennessee for future generations 
  • $5 million to protect and enhance scenic beauty along our major highways 
  • $3 million for Access 2030 to make Tennessee State Parks accessible to Tennesseans with disabilities 
  • Streamlining and eliminating 40% of executive branch rules 
  • Statewide permitting reform 
  • Protecting the music industry against AI impersonation 
  • Parental consent for children to create social media accounts  

The 2024 State of the State address can be viewed in full here. A Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget overview can be found here.