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Democrats unveil no-new-taxes plan

March 4, 2002

Along with forgoing $93 million in new funding requested by Gov. Don Sundquist, higher education would lose $125 million from its current budget under a plan introduced by democrat and House Finance Committee Chair Matt Kisber.

The plan would cut $18.6 million now going to support 26 Centers of Excellence in the state's four-year universities, including the Center of Excellence for Field Biology and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay.

Student grants, pre-med and pre-law fellowships and community service awards also would be eliminated to produce another $2.8 million in cuts.

Dr. Rich Rhoda, THEC's executive director, says he's even more concerned about the $93 million in unspecified cuts. Rhoda said schools might have to cap enrollment, because they simply “would not have the ability to grow.”

Brian Noland, THEC's director of academic affairs, was quoted by “The Tennessean” as saying that the lack of money for faculty raises would “further drive more of the best and brightest out of the state.”

Conservatives label the plan as simply “puerile scare tactics” intended to foist higher taxes on the people of Tennessee.

“Instead of examining a line-by-line audit of state government spending and rooting out the pork…they are targeting education, health care and state parks, three areas chosen for their high visibility,” says Michael W. Thompson, whose letter to the editor was published in “The Tennessean.”

The plan's guiding principle, according to the writers of the report, was to preserve basic health, safety and educational activities, and the only way to do that, given the state's insufficient funding, was “to curtail cultural, recreational and business development programs.”

The complete report can be found in the Feb. 24 issue of “The Tennessean.”