Senator says state owes Shelby County $28 million

(WMC-TV) – Tennessee Senator Jim Kyle is lobbying to get $28 million that he says the state owes Shelby County.

The reimbursement battle revolves around a longtime budget blunder. Senator Kyle says the state undercut the Shelby County Public Defender's Office for nearly two decades. He wants a remedy.

Senator Kyle stepped out of the Senate Budget Subcommittee Monday to explain how a miscalculation has hurt every taxpayer in Shelby County for the last 19 years.

Tennessee Senator Jim Kyle stepped out of the Senate Budget Subcommittee Monday to explain how a miscalculation has hurt every taxpayer in the Shelby County for the past 19 years.

"We've taken money that could have been spent on other things like schools or public health, and put it into the public defender's office," he said.

Unlike all of the other counties across Tennessee, the state chose not to increase the annual money allotment for the Shelby and Davidson County Public Defender's Offices.

Kyle says these are the only two counties that set up their defenders' offices under county jurisdiction.

"The difference between us and other parts of the state is they are all state employees and all the expenses are state expenses. But in Shelby County, they are county expenses."

Still, the senator says that is not a good reason for the state to give them less money.

Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush made a trip to Nashville to present the problem to the Tennessee Senate last week.

"The General Assembly passed a clear law and the calculations have been calculated incorrectly," said Bush.

He wants the state to change the future formula and pay the money back.

Senator Kyle says the state does not have $28 million sitting around.

"What we're trying to do is remedy the funding formula in the future," said Kyle.

Davidson County says the state owes them $16.8 million.

If the issue is not resolved before the end of the legislative session Friday, Kyle says the issue could end up in court.