MTSU, Jan. 15, 2017– Because the elections of 2016 were such a hot-button issue, many students on Middle Tennessee State University’s campus felt themselves drawn to politics like never before. During the presidential election, many college students found themselves interested in certain issues and looking for a way to make their concerns heard. With the 110th Tennessee General Assembly and the spring semester at MTSU underway, one issue that is at the forefront and impacts millennials and our state is the budget and our massive surplus.
“As far as finances are concerned, Tennessee is in reasonably decent shape on the surface. This year, our state government progressed financially to the point that they have created surpluses in our budget. This year, we have 977 million in a non-recurring surplus and 850 million (or more) in a new-recurring surplus,” according to Representative Terry. This puts Tennessee in a good place to allocate resources into making some improvements in our state while potentially decreasing taxes.
“There are some concerns that need to be addressed, among them are issues like healthcare, education, the current debt, transportation, and the potential for another recession looming in the future. Many constituents, also, asked about tax cuts,” stated Rep. Terry. “When asked how they would manage the surplus, most millennials expressed a desire to work for a better future.”
Education was a major issue for the students when discussing the surplus. As Samantha Biggs, a double major in English and Spanish put it, “Things are just going to start to decline if our youth are not better engaged in their education.” These sentiments were echoed by April Carroll, a junior Political Science major, who added that, “I would use that money to (smartly) invest more in public education between grades K-12. I would even like to see the re-implementation of Pre-K in the major inner cities. I think the future of the state is in those grades, and even a recession were to happen, the kids still need to be better educated.”
Dominick Trail, a sophomore studying Criminal Justice, told of a teacher he’d had in high school who often had to use her own money in order for her students to have ample supplies for projects. Shelby Rehberger, a recent graduate with degrees in anthropology/archaeology and fine art, echoed this by emphasizing that “I think education needs to be funded for public schools to improve high school graduation rates in at-risk rural populations.” Funding for education, especially in the public school sector, was a major concern for these millennials, who simply want children in the future to have access to better educational opportunities. The general consensus was that the next generation is the future of this country, so that should be something to look toward when making monetary decisions.
They also considered issues of transportation in their ideas of budget management. Austin Dubuc, a junior Criminal Justice major, allowed that while he felt some money should be saved in case of a recession and used to pay off some of Tennessee’s debt, he felt that “Transportation moves workers around to boost commerce,” and that, “public transportation should be considered a top priority.” Reed Champion, another junior at MTSU, agreed that transportation funding was an important thing to examine while also stating that “it’s also important to have a sort of nest egg of money since the debt has to be paid and with an uncertain future…” following the 2016 elections. Dominick Trail agreed, arguing that public transportation would help stimulate commerce by making it easier for people to travel between cities and within city limits, suggesting improvements on railroad and taxi systems as a possible solution.
Another major concern for these students were matters of healthcare and getting Tennesseans affordable health insurance. Since the introduction of Obamacare, insurance hikes in our state, some of the greatest in the nation, have affected everyone, and students are no exception. Shelby Rehberger heavily emphasized that healthcare was a major financial issue for her, since it was already difficult to make ends meet before the extra expenses. A major problem for her is dental insurance, which she said she has not had access to since she was 12. Samantha Biggs agreed that getting Tennesseans insured was a major issue for her, second only behind funding for education, going on to say that “Mental health and public services are priorities.”
Those issues aside, most agreed that Tennessee should not take this surplus lightly, but should use it as an opportunity to prepare for any future recession or emergency situations that may come up. However, the major focus was on improving on issues hurting the everyday citizen. They gave considerable thought to all aspects of these issues, and they expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to share their perspectives on a more widespread platform.