By Kayla Carter
The two state representatives who speak for Carter and Johnson counties went back to work in Nashville with the
Tennessee General Assembly this past week.
“Basically, this week was organizational,” said Rep. Kent Williams, I-Elizabethton.
But for a state legislator, getting organized means much more than deciding where to put your stapler; it involves figuring out all the details before legislation comes up for a vote.
One of the biggest issues that Williams and Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, will have to consider is the state’s budget, which is estimated to currently have a $175 million shortfall.
However, Hill said it’s hard to talk about because Gov. Bill Haslam has not yet issued a proposal for legislators to review.
“We don’t have it yet,” Hill said. “We don’t have his proposal. It will come shortly.”
Williams said the funding board set the growth rate too high and estimates that the $175 million shortfall could double.
“I don’t expect revenues to pick up,” he said. “I would think we would have a shortfall of $300 million to $500 million this year.”
Medicaid expansion is a topic Williams said is one of the most important to his constituents.
“The governor decided not to expand Medcaid,” he said. “His administration has developed a different plan, which I haven’t seen and I don’t think really anyone has seen.”
The goal is to try to insure those who cannot afford insurance.
“Obamacare is law now, but there is still a tremendous amount of people falling through the cracks in the state of Tennessee,” Williams said. “That will be discussed a lot in this session. I have received a lot of calls from constituents who were on the Tennessee program, which we no longer have because of Obamacare.”
Around 5,500 Carter Countians are affected by the program, he said.
“If we did expand Medicaid, those people would qualify for reduced cost or free healthcare,” Williams said. “Now, most people are finding that when they go online that it is difficult to afford the insurance programs that are out there.”
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