The governor’s revised budget plan includes nearly $11 million in extra one-time money to help rebuild Gatlinburg, but that’s still short of what some lawmakers were pushing for in recovery funding.
A day after Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act passed the House, administration officials came before lawmakers to present their revised annual spending plan, which includes $10.65 million in one-time additional funds to help the city recover from the wildfires that ravaged thousands of homes and caused more than $1 billion in damage.
Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, said the total number that’s been directed to recovery and rebuilding efforts is closer to $26-$27 million when funding for marketing dollars, federal money and other funding is included in the total figure.
“Under the current budget (FY2017) my recollection is about $16.5 million already in either direct aid or grants being made available either through TEMA or FEMA or the Department of Conservation of Environment,” Overbey said.
When added to the newest proposed spending, the total amount of money going to Gatlinburg is about $27 million.
Larry Martin, the state’s finance and administration commissioner, said the state has a “long-standing” procedure when it comes to helping communities recover from major disasters, referring to measures that were developed after the 2010 flooding in Middle Tennessee that provided refunds of sales tax revenue on items used to rebuild Nashville and surrounding areas.
But Gatlinburg-area lawmakers like Overbey and Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, have been in weekly meetings with administration officials lobbying for Haslam to kick in some of the state’s $1 billion surplus to help the area recover from the wildfires.
“The purpose of the governor’s task force is to keep tabs on what’s been done and what’s being done,” Overbey said.
They initially said they had hoped to get $25 million in non-recurring money to rebuild, but filed a budget amendment request for the current year of $35 million, Overbey said.
Carr said Tuesday that the $10.65 million could be directly injected into the recovery effort, but the area could still get as much as $30 million in funding through grants and other sources.
Jake Lowary covers Tennessee politics and state government for the USA Today Network. Reach him at 931-237-1583 or follow him on Twitter @JakeLowary