Govs Focus on Education in AL, LA, OK, PA, TN Budget Proposals

February 18, 2016

SSTI’s analysis of gubernatorial addresses, strategic plans and budget proposals continues this week with highlights from Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Governors are facing difficult fiscal situations in several of these states, often scaling back tech-based economic development efforts. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, however, is using a fiscal surplus to invest in higher education and regionally focused economic initiatives.

Alabama

Gov. Robert Bentley rolled out his Great State 2019 plan during his State of the State address earlier this month, with many aspects included in his proposed fiscal year 2017 budget. Education and workforce efforts plan a key role in the plan and include the FUTURE scholarship program to provide every student with the chance to attend a state community college, and a consolidation of the state’s regional workforce development councils. The governor instructs the Office of Broadband Development to step up its efforts to expand access to high-speed data services, particularly telemedicine. Last year, Gov. Bentley permanently established the Alabama Small Business Commission and Advisory Committee, and plans to use its upcoming recommendations to enhance the environment for business growth.

The governor’s Education Trust Fund budget proposal would increase support for the state’s community college system by about $11 million, following the December 2015 decision to consolidate seven state community college campuses. About $4.4 million would be appropriated for MEP’s Alabama Technology Network through the community college system.

His $1.9 billion general fund budget would provide $7.5 million for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), with another $202.4 million in earmarked funds.

Louisiana

Gov. John Bel Edwards submitted his first budget request last week, with reduction for almost every state agency outside of public K-12 education. His administration proposed a $180 million reduction for higher education, in addition to a minimum of $70 million in reductions before the next fiscal year. Total recommended FY17 funding for the Department of Economic Development is $41.4 million, $10 million less than the previous year. Within the department budget, $10.4 million is provided for the Louisiana Fast Start workforce program, $7.5 million for the Small Business Loans Guarantee and Seed Capital programs and $1.4 million for Economic Development Regional Awards and Matching Grant program.

Oklahoma

In her State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Mary Fallin named education as her administration’s highest priority in her $6.9 billion FY17 budget request. Despite a $1.3 billion shortfall, the governor plans to keep the income tax cut that went into effect this year. Gov. Fallin’s proposal would provide $14.6 million for the Oklahoma Center for Science & Technology (OCAST), a slight decrease from FY16.

Pennsylvania

Gov. Wolf released his $32.7 billion FY 2017 general fund budget last week, though the state has operated for seven months without a FY 2016 budget. The state faces a $1.9 billion structural deficit, which the governor’s budget would partially address by raising the personal income tax rate and other taxes. Funding for community colleges and the State System of Higher Education universities would be increased by 5 percent in FY16 and FY17.

The Department of Community and Economic Development would receive $613.2 million in general funds, a small increase over the current fiscal year but down $100,000 from FY15. Within that appropriation, $14.5 million would go to the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority Fund, though that fund would receive additional support from the sale of premium tax credits. MEP’s Industrial Resource Centers would receive $12 million.

Tennessee

Gov. Bill Haslam revealed his $32.8 billion FY17 budget request earlier this month in a better fiscal situation than many other states. For the second year in a row, the governor has recommended increased spending on teacher pay, university construction and investment in the Tennessee Promise community college tuition program. Tennessee State University would receive funds for a new health sciences building, while Tennessee Tech would be appropriated funds for a new lab. He recommended $10 million for the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) to connect educational programs with the needs of employers.

The budget would provide $70.9 million for the Jobs4TN program to recruit businesses and support workforce training. The Rural Development Initiative launched last year would receive $10 million to support rural communities. The second year of the state’s five-year effort to fund manufacturing research at Oak Ridge lab would receive a non-recurring grant of $3 million. About $100 million would be added to the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennesseestate budget