Bredesen: We've built this budget around at least the option for the General Assembly to use some reserves to help sort of soften the bottom of where we are. The situation we found ourselves in is on one hand, we've made some very difficult cuts in a number of programs, primarily in some of the social services for some of the really vulnerable people in mental health and intellectual disabilities. At the same time, we're sitting on really some very good reserves. We have a lot of money in the bank and lot of reserves. The economy appears to be coming back somewhat. Obviously in Tennessee, things like the housing market and the automotive market are beginning to come back. So the question we're faced with is how far are we willing at this point to say it's raining a little bit and let's use some of these funds to soften some of these more difficult cuts. So what we've done basically is identify the cuts. So if the General Assembly does not want to do it, we have the cuts on the table. But as a part of this budget, we've taken some money out of reserves to fund these. Basically, we're saying rather than go all the down into the valley, maybe we'll just fill it in and soften some of the more difficult cuts. I'll describe this in a little more detail tonight. I feel that we are certainly not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, but things are well enough under control and we have the budget well enough under control at this point that this is a sensible kind of thing to do.
Q: You say we're not out of the woods. Can you see the clearing?
Bredesen: Last year at this time, we just had no idea how deep it was going. Every time we made an estimate for what we thought the revenues were going to do, no matter how conservative we made it, it turned out worse than that. So for our purposes, we were just playing this very close to the chest. ... [But] we just had a quarter of strong growth in our national economy. Obviously, the housing market is in very different shape in Tennessee today, something which is important to us because we're so depend on the sales tax from construction. ... We've been provident about this. We've put some money away. Can we use it in this budget to take some of the edge off some of the really difficult cuts? ... The idea of the mental health department going out of the adult acute care business is just not something we should do. ... What we're doing is judicious. It actually leaves the state at the end of this process still in a very strong reserve position. But this is a year in which we will at least propose some use of reserves to kind of soften the blow of some of these cuts.
Q: Governor, would you describe the tone of your speech tonight? Is it going to be a lot of gloom and doom?
Bredesen: No, I actually don't feel that way. I'm very sensitive to the pain and uncertainty that a lot of families are going through in this state. But I think the state has managed itself through this process well. I certainly know a lot of other governors who are facing vastly greater challenges than we are here in Tennessee. ... Second of all, we've moved a lot of things ahead. The special session on education just ended, it's going to have huge impacts over the next decade or two on our education system. So no, I don't feel it's doom and gloom. I feel there's good times and bad times. Part of the test of anybody, of the General Assembly or of your state government, it's not how do you do in the good times. It's how do you do in the tough ones, and this state has done a not perfect but pretty good job of working its way some difficult problems.