Monday, June 27, 2022
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Rep. Windle Says UC Needed More Assistance In Governor’s Budget

State Representative John Mark Windle said that more could have been done to help the Upper Cumberland in the 2021 state budget.

Windle said that broadband infrastructure was cut from $200 million to $100 million by Governor Lee. Windle said rural Tennessee is seeing an influx of new residents but they need the bandwidth for today’s jobs.

“We need to make it accessible to have an adequate bandwidth if you want to start a business,” Windle said. “In Jackson, Clay, Pickett, Macon, Overton, Morgan, anywhere off the interstate.”

Windle said that there should have been money included in the budget for Upper Cumberland roads and highway departments.

Windle said keeping up with hundreds of miles of roads is difficult for Upper Cumberland road superintendents. He said this was a budget year where extra money was available but roads were not addressed.

“The road superintendents in rural counties, Preacher Anderson in Jackson County comes to mind,” Windle said. “Have a tremendous job to keep up 500 miles of roadway. Some of it’s gravel, some of it’s paved but it’s a herculean job and it’s almost impossible to keep up 500 miles of road with the current funding structure.”

Windle said that fully funding BEP and holding schools harmless for any student population losses was huge for the Upper Cumberland. He said given the circumstances of the pandemic, it would have been a wrong decision to tax rural property owners if the state had cut BEP funding.

“So if we had 100 students at Clarkrange last year and we only had 90 this year, we’re gonna get paid for the 100 students,” Windle said. “And lets see what happens with the student numbers next year. Because we had an unusual because of all the issues with the virus.”

Windle said that funding for both broadband and rural roads will be a priority going into the next legislative session. He said his hope is that federal money sent to Tennessee that was not in this year’s budget can be allocated towards roads and schools.