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Gov. Lee: Tennessee well situated to show rest of the country 'the way'

Lee spoke at the Knoxville Chamber's luncheon Friday.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — While Tennessee enjoys the current comfort of smart fiscal management and high quality of life, the state also needs to think long-term about how it wants to be and how it can accommodate future growth, Gov. Bill Lee said Friday.

"We continue to prosper in the middle of increasingly difficult times," Lee noted.

Tennessee also can be an example for other parts of the country that have lost their way, he said.

Lee was a featured guest and speaker at a Knoxville Chamber luncheon at the Foundry. It's the first major public gathering the chamber has staged since 2019 following the pandemic.

Lee said Tennessee in recent years has gained a reputation as a desirable place to live and operate a business. As a result, population growth is rising.

But that places a strain on the demand for services and infrastructure. As a result, Lee said he's paying attention to how the Sunbelt States like Texas and Florida are addressing growth.

Credit: WBIR
Gov. Bill Lee at the Foundry on Friday.

He said he recently flew to Dallas for that purpose and he's planning a trip to Central Florida as well to see how the Sunshine State has designed its road system. Planning today can help ensure Tennessee isn't overwhelmed in the future, he said.

Lee said his current priorities include using $620 million in federal rescue money to step up road construction and repairs statewide and $1.3 billion in water and sewer work.

Other priorities include increasing broadband access and boosting career and technical education training with $500 million at the high school and middle school levels. More young people need skills training to prepare for trade jobs in the workforce, he said.

The General Assembly also is close to overhauling funding this spring for K-12 students, a "historic investment in public education," he said.

Lee said he recognized gas prices and inflation have both taken off over the last year or so. He classified current inflation as a "federal problem" but said state lawmakers and the executive branch were doing what they could to provide relief.

Suspension of the grocery tax this summer for a month, which he is seeking as part of this year's amended proposed budget, is one way to help people who have less money to spend these days, he said.

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