Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers State of the State address

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers State of the State address
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee giving a speech (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is changing up the annual State of the State address this year.

He delivered the traditional address Monday in Nashville, but afterwards, he’s hitting the road to deliver regional addresses.

On Monday night, Gov. Lee unveiled his budget proposal and outlining his priorities for the year ahead.

In his first State of the State address in Nashville, Governor Bill Lee focused on improving education, reducing prison populations judiciously and health care reform.

Gov. Lee's main focus is education.

He's proposing a 2.5 percent pay raise for teachers, more VO-TECH training, and $30 million for school safety.

Gov. Lee's also proposing education savings accounts that the he said will give parents more school choices without taking precious funds away from traditional public schools:

“In my budget, we are doubling the amount of public charter school facility funding and I will support legislation that makes it easier to open good charter schools and easier to close bad ones,” Gov. Lee said.

Gov. Lee proposed a $25 million Education Savings Account fund that he says will create more competition between schools and will make them better.

On prison reform, the Governor and his entire senior staff pledged to serve as mentors to help prisoners on the path to release.

Finally, Gov. Lee announced the new office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives that he said will leverage the non-profit community while reducing the size of government.

"It’s his chance to get down more into specifics about what he wants the legislature to do in the way of new bills, new programs,” said WMC Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson.

The governor has already announced some of his priorities.

He wants to spend $4 million to increase STEM training in K-12 schools, $40 million to provide more school resource safety officers, and $15 million to expand access to mental health services.

Nelson said getting all of that done would be challenging for any governor.

"Governor Lee has more challenges than most because this is his first government job, so he’s learning a lot by doing the job,” Nelson said.

After his State of the State Monday in Nashville, Lee will deliver regional addresses, including one at U of M on Thursday night.

The event is free and open to the public, but you will need a ticket.

“It’s a way of kind of taking his general message to the state as a whole and then tailoring it to west Tennessee in this case,” Nelson said.

Gov. Lee said it will allow him to engage with as many Tennesseans as possible, as his plans start to take shape.

We’ll have more tonight on the News at 10 p.m.

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