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Hicks: Raising teacher pay will be a priority in 2020

Hank Hayes • Dec 14, 2019 at 3:00 PM

KINGSPORT — The man who chairs one of the Tennessee General Assembly’s most powerful subcommittees said Friday that raising teacher pay will be a top priority in 2020.

Rep. Gary Hicks, a Republican who represents Hawkins and Hancock counties, heads the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee, also known as the “Black Hole” Subcommittee for killing bills with fiscal impact notes.

Before meeting with about 20 business leaders at a breakfast hosted by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hicks noted Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is making teacher pay a priority.

“We’re certainly looking at that. That is an initiative that we’re all ready to get behind and move forward with,” Hicks said of improving teacher pay. “It’s a lot easier to govern when you don’t have a whole lot of money. Now that we have some resources available, we have to make sure we steer those in the right direction. I think you’re still going to see the investment in education.”

State government finished the previous fiscal year with a $600 million-plus budget surplus.

Things are looking good for Tennessee, but we all hear about the economic downturn that will eventually come, Hicks said at the breakfast.

“What do we do to keep that momentum going?” Hicks asked.

When asked how Northeast Tennessee’s economy can better compete with Nashville’s and Chattanooga’s, Hicks responded: “Tourism is going to be a catalyst to make that happen. We’ve got to do a better job telling our story.”

Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull pointed to this year’s spike in the homeless population and the need for more mental health services.

“It’s a major issue,” Hicks told Shull.