Says The Governor
At Capitol Meeting
BY TOM YANCEY
State Rep. Eddie Yokley, D-11th, of Greene County, said Wednesday he believes Gov. Phil Bredesen "really listened" to his concerns about keeping money for Greene Valley Developmental Center jobs in next year's budget.
"I pleaded with him," the four-term legislator told The Greeneville Sun in a telephone interview from Nashville.
Yokley said he traveled to Nashville early Tuesday after reading news reports that said Bredesen was considering using his line-item veto power to remove about $4 million that the legislature put in the budget to continue 228 GVDC jobs that the governor's initial budget had cut.
Bredesen said in a meeting with reporters on Monday that "one obvious concern" he has with the budget passed by the legislature two weeks ago is restoration of funding to protect 228 positions at Greene Valley.
The governor said then that he would be looking at that funding and selected other items as he reviews the budget this week, and could use his line-item veto authority.
The budget was passed first by the state Senate and then the House with very strong bipartisan majorities.
Yokley said the decision is the governor's to make. He predicted that Bredesen would make an announcement either today or Friday.
State Rep. David Hawk, R-5th of Greeneville, said Bredesen received the budget on June 14, and by law must either sign it or reject parts of it by the close of business on Friday.
If the governor does neither, then by law it will become law without his signature.
"The whole Greene County legislative delegation continues to work to save every job at Greene Valley," Hawk said in a telephone interview this morning.
He continued, "If the governor reduces the funding, we will be working with colleagues to try to call a special session (of the General Assembly) to overturn the governor's action."
Hawk noted that there are other bills that the governor has talked about possibly vetoing, so the possibility of a return of the legislature for a special session could deal with more than just the GVDC jobs.
State Sen. Steve Southerland, R-1st, of Morristown, said in a telephone interview this morning, "We're still waiting to see what the governor actually does. I hope he will reconsider" and leave the GVDC funding in the budget.
Southerland said the other items that Bredesen is considering for a veto are a resolution by the Tennessee legislature in support of the Arizona action on illegal immigration, and a portion of the budget that would leave a state prison open that the governor would like to close.
Southerland noted that next year's budget will be harder than this year's, since federal stimulus money that helped greatly this year will not be available.
Southerland also noted that the money used to restore the GVDC funding was "one-time money."
Yokley said his 9 a.m. meeting began with the governor's staff and then later Gov. Bredesen joined them for about 25 minutes.
"He listened," Yokley said of the governor. "He really listened, and I feel like his staff listened."
Yokley, whose district doesn't include Greene Valley, has been heavily involved in efforts to protect the threatened jobs since the governor's budget came out in March.
Yokley said he left the meeting without a commitment from the governor, but that he "felt much better about it."
Yokley said he tried to make the case that, if staff cuts need to be made at Greene Valley, they should be studied carefully and made a year from now in the 2011-12 budget.
Yokley said he is aware that Bredesen is being advised from several quarters that Greene Valley is overstaffed for the number of patients it now has.
Yokley said the governor "truly believes" that the facility, which cares for 250 of the most medically fragile intellectually disabled people in the state, is overstaffed.
Greene Valley has a staff of about 1,200.
"He thinks that place is overstaffed," Yokley said, but "I tried to convince him that, even if it is (overstaffed), let's do this thing right, and carefully," over the coming year.
Yokley said he tried to make the case that the staff at GVDC "didn't create the problem," meaning the major shortfall that the legislature had to deal with at the start of the budget-making process.