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As the Bredesen administration briefs lawmakers today on its new state budget recommendation, Pith
's favorite revelation so far is this: They're cutting a school physical health program by $5 million and whacking another $1 million to help schools connect to the Internet while at the same time adding nearly $6 million to improve state parks. We're eliminating phys ed teachers who make little Johnny do his jumping jacks every day, so we can upgrade campgrounds and buy golf carts. Maybe little Johnny can stay in shape by collecting firewood.
Naturally, Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz blamed this absurdity of prioritizing on the legislature. "We're responding to input from the legislature," he told Pith
. "The legislature can change that if they choose."
More news from the briefings: The state will lay off 700 workers over the next budget year, pull an extra $50 million out of its reserve funds and collect another $38 million in new revenue to balance the books. That new money is like manna from heaven to hear the administration tell it. The state would raise $21 million of it strictly through streamlining collection of the gross receipts business tax, officials say. The money would go to restore planned cuts in children's services and mental health budgets.