The state senator representing Marshall County has a few suggestions on where the University of Tennessee can cut spending instead of moving UT's Jersey dairy herd from Lewisburg to Spring Hill.
"I have ID in their budget some other areas that could be cut, in my opinion, which would leave the Jersey heard in tact," Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) said Wednesday while previewing his dinner speech here on Saturday.
Ketron is the Marshall County Republican Party's featured speaker for its Presidents Day Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the 1st Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
"There's almost $3 million in the UT budget that brings Chinese students to UT at Martin to increase their English language skills...
"It just raised a red flag to me," Ketron said of students from a Communist country going to a state university campus in this southern state.
"It was beyond me that they'd bring so many Chinese to Martin," he said. "Both would suffer culture shock."
Marshall County commissioners, county school students, the Farm Bureau and others oppose moving the Jersey herd to Spring Hill as a cost cutting measure for the state budget. Nearly two months have passed since local leaders met with Gov. Phil Bredesen asking him to "Save the Cows" at the UT Dairy Experiment Station on new Lake Road.
"I haven't heard anything from them," Ketron said Wednesday, "but of course the UT budget hasn't passed the Senate Budget Committee so we still have hope to keep the Jersey herd in Lewisburg."
If Ketron can't report anything new on the cows Saturday, he'll probably talk about other parts of the state's $29 million budget.
However, he has other spending cuts to save the cows.
There's a "$50,000 grant to some guy in Vancouver, Canada to research the inner-cortex of the brain," Ketron said. "Why can't they do it here and not sacrifice something that's been there since 1929 and has been important to America's food source?"
Other grants would go to other universities and there's a research grant for something in South America, he said.
As for Ketron's report to Marshall County residents on the state budget, he said more would be known about week later, after the State Funding Board meets; "It should give a pretty good indication on where our funding cuts will have to be made."
He anticipates approximately $250 million in additional cuts beyond what the governor reported in March when reductions were seen at some $1.16 billion.
"That will put us at about $1.3 billion" in cuts to a $29 billion budget, Ketron said.
No discussion on money, state spending and politics could go without mentioning the national economic situation, he said.
"I'll talk about how the national economy affects us on the local economy... and on June 1 when the decision will be made on the GM plant in Spring Hill," Ketron said.
On legislative matters, the senator shepherded a bill through the General Assembly for statewide licensure of cable TV services. It's to come with incentives for better access to the Internet, and Ketron also reports the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will further the cause.
"There is broadband in the stimulus program which will bring a lot of dollars to our state," he said. "We'll have to apply for it, but I'll be working with both mayors (of Lewisburg and Marshall County) to apply for the grants... We'll probably channel it through ECD (the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development) or the South Central Tennessee Development District."
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Ketron indicated that he had no prepared text for his discussion after dinner here on Saturday: "I'm just going to talk and let my mind wander and discuss all the important things that affect the citizens of Marshall County.