Tennessee is starting its fiscal year with much more money than expected after making deep cuts that included slashing teacher raises.
July brought in nearly $500 million more in tax revenue than the state budgeted for. And to the surprise of finance officials, sales tax revenue was higher than a year ago, despite the economic downturn.
The legislature met in June to find $1 billion dollars of savings in the budget, which included canceling raises for teachers. Gov. Bill Lee doesn’t foresee restoring those raises mid-year.
“Much has yet to be seen about our economic recovery,” Lee says. “Our revenues are better than expected, but we still have significant revenue deficits.”
Early this year, Lee proposed a 4% pay hike for teachers to raise overall wages in the classroom, what he called the largest investment in teacher salaries in state history. Once the pandemic hit, the raise was cut to 2%, and the final budget had no money for additional teacher pay.
Lee says teachers are being asked to do more hard work than usual in the pandemic. But any pay increase would have to wait until the legislature returns next year, because restoring them would require a special session, he says.