CA: State approves budget including $12 million for St. Jude expansion

CA: State approves budget including $12 million for St. Jude expansion

“State legislators approved a $34.8 billion state budget Thursday that includes $12 million in state aid for the upcoming expansion of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Memphis officials, including Mayor Jim Strickland, and St. Jude’s fundraising arm, ALSAC, have been in discussions with the governor for months on how the state can help on the hospital’s $1 billion expansion plans. Haslam, in turn, has said the state will be involved in the project but the level and form of the assistance was awaiting the finalization of St. Jude’s plans and detailed request to the state.

It could not be determined Thursday whether $12 million is the full amount of state assistance being sought by St. Jude, or part of it.

The governor has said state financial aid will probably assist the city with infrastructure improvements in the blighted area near the St. Jude campus. He has also said that the assistance could come over a multi-year period.

Clint Brewer, assistant commissioner for communications and marketing at the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said his agency “has set aside significant funding for public infrastructure to support the expansion of St. Jude’s fundraising, research and administrative operations. We are hopeful the project will receive the local support needed to move forward.

“St. Jude is one of our country’s most important research institutions. Its continued growth is important to children all over the world as well as to the economy of Shelby County and West Tennessee.”

Beyond the St. Jude contribution, the budget includes an initial step to repeal the state’s Hall income tax, additional money dedicated to the state’s Rainy Day Fund, $104 million dedicated to giving teachers raises and more than $1.7 billion for higher education.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, noted the budget also includes an effort to provide tax relief to disabled veterans and the elderly, who last year were frustrated after lawmakers approved a measure that made changes to a property tax relief program.

Although there was little discussion on the budget in the Senate, Sens. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, and Lee Harris, D-Memphis, used the opportunity to criticize certain aspects.

Noting that he ultimately supported the budget, Yarbro said he was disappointed that lawmakers did not include funds specifically to address a variety of needs the state has, including dedicating funds for expanding health care coverage, transportation and criminal justice.

Norris said he didn’t necessarily disagree with Yarbro but pointed out that the state is making headway in a variety of areas, including setting aside money for the Public Safety Act of 2016, which came out of the recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism.

Harris took issue with the fact that the budget included $100,000 for a conference involving American Legislative Exchange Council — a nonprofit organization frequently targeted by Democrats because of its connections to billionaires Charles and David Koch — that is set to be held in Nashville.

Norris and Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, dismissed Harris’ concerns, saying the money was not going directly to ALEC and was no different than setting aside funds to host the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Harris’ amendment ultimately failed to receive approval.”

CA: State approves budget including $12 million for St. Jude expansion

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