Tennessee Should Use $700 Million Surplus to End Poverty, State Rep. Bo Mitchell Says


At least one member of the Tennessee General Assembly reportedly wants to spend the state’s $700 million surplus on government social programs because he thinks it will help end poverty.

That legislator, State Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville), reportedly said this to the Nashville-based TNLedger.com

“That money can go toward workforce development, job training, child care, transportation, drug use prevention,” the website quoted Mitchell as saying.

“That’s how we fund social services and break the cycle of poverty.”

The website also quoted State Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, who stressed the need for fiscal responsibility.

“One of her legislative priorities is to see to it that TANF funds help qualified recipients gain employment and self-reliance,” according to TNLedger.com

Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, reportedly said he wants to “maintain fiscal responsibility.”

The Memphis-based WREG, meanwhile, said Tennessee receives $190.9 million through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. But the state only spent $71.1 million of that in one recent year.

The station went on to report that the block grant funds “have significantly more flexibility than other federal entitlement money.”

WREG quoted officials with the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee saying state officials should use the funds to create innovative programs.

Beacon is a free market think tank.

As The Tennessee Star reported in October, Shelby County gets a huge chunk of the state’s entitlement programs.

TennCare is by far Tennessee’s largest entitlement program in terms of caseload and cost to the state.

As reported, Beacon reported the use of other benefits like Tennessee’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, however, have gone down since the Great Recession ended.

“Shelby County represents the largest caseload size across all three support programs: 22 percent of the SNAP caseload, 23.3 percent of the TANF caseload, and 17 percent of the TennCare caseload,” according to a Beacon report, titled Poverty to Prosperity: Reforming Tennessee’s Public Assistance Programs.

“Over 85 percent of all individuals enrolled in all three support programs live in an urban area. In fact, 40 percent of SNAP recipients, 43.5 percent of TANF recipients, and 37 percent of TennCare enrollees live in one of the big four counties: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Shelby.”

Beacon’s report goes on to say approximately 287,000 working age adults who are not elderly or disabled currently receive SNAP benefits in Tennessee.

– – –

Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “State Rep Bo Mitchell” by Bo Mitchell.






Related posts

11 Thoughts to “Tennessee Should Use $700 Million Surplus to End Poverty, State Rep. Bo Mitchell Says”

  1. Ruby Brown

    287,000 people not elderly or disabled working age adults, should not be receiving SNAP benefits from Tennessee taxpayers.

  2. Dal

    WHAT? Another War on Poverty based on throwing money at it. Shades of LBJ and you know how much grief that has caused.

    Prima facia evidence in support of Tennessee Taxpayer Relief. Now is the time to read up on Mike Carter’s bill and get behind TENNESSEE TAXPAYER RELIEF (TTR) It can be enacted this year.

  3. Cannoneer2

    No way. Tennessee’s businesswhiners want that money.

  4. Buck Ofama

    The way to end poverty is to STOP PAYING PEOPLE TO BE “POOR”!
    We have a very large percentage of our “POOR” who are OBESE! Think about that: our “poor, starving huddled masses” are FAT, have expensive clothes, shoes, hair extensions… and are screaming that they’re OPPRESSED!

    Poverty programs aren’t the answer… never have been. I’ve heard it numerous times from kids, “I donts gotsuh study cuz I On de welfare…”

    End it. All of it. Then re-create it to serve only those who are legitimately unable. Those who REFUSE to feed themselves will be motivated by hunger to get off their asses and CONTRIBUTE.

    If they’re working, there will be less time for crime.


  5. Beatrice Shaw

    This man is EXACTLY right!!! The $700 million will go a LOOONG way to ending poverty in Tennessee. Free education, health care and transportation to Nashville from outlying areas is a MUST!! Good to see some common sense in politics.

  6. Kevin

    Bo Mitchell has lost his marble!

    Many of you have heard me say this before, the dirty little secret is that while the State of Tennessee is enjoying “surplus” revenues, each of the 95 counties are racking up debt at astronomical rates! It’s a shell game! So while, we’re better than most other States, right now, the goose that lays the golden eggs may soon be on it’s death bed. Mitchell’s idea will certainly guarantee it.

  7. Silence Dogood

    Politicians, Republican and Democrat, LOVE spending your money on their pet projects. Thank goodness Mitchell is a Democrat. I was afraid he would be a Republican. A real possibility in Tennessee.

  8. Karen Bracken

    We have spent probably trillions to end poverty to no avail. Money obviously is not the answer. $700 million of TN tax payer money over and above what is needed means you obviously are taxing us too much so how about you help us all, including the poor, by repealing the gas tax and lowering the state sales tax which is one of the highest in the nation or just giving a rebate to every Tennessean that PAID TAXES. More hand out programs with no real benefit except to win votes is not what Tennesseans want or need.

  9. Wolf Woman

    Rep. Mitchell should read his history books. A similar plan, under the name “War on Poverty” was instituted as a federal program under Pres. Lyndon Johnson to do the very things Mitchell wants to do. We can see now that this program was not successful and actually made the situation worse.

    The democrats, have become the ultimate materialists, and think that increasing the bureaucracy and throwing money at people will solve societies’ problems.

  10. juspassinthru

    700 million surplus! How about REDUCING the obnoxious sales tax in Tennessee. You want to help the poor then reduce the sales tax to it’s previous level. $30,000 disposable cash family spends nearly $3,000 on sales taxes for retail purchases. Obscene, especially with a surplus nearing 1 Billion dollars.
    Mr. Mitchell, how about HELPING those that provided the $700,000,000.

  11. John R

    A typical Democrat wants to give out free stuff to his voters, instead of returning the money to the TAXPAYERS. If there’s such a huge surplus, maybe the tax rates should be lowered.