Press release from the Democratic Caucus of the Tennessee House of Representatives, April 9, 2014:
Republicans vote to balance the budget on backs of teachers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Republican leaders pulled an all-nighter in order to pass a budget that breaks Tennessee’s promise to our public school teachers. The budget, as amended, eliminates a promised two percent increase in pay for public school teachers, along with a one percent pay increase for state employees.
“It is so unfortunate that at a time when trust between school teachers and this administration is at an all-time low, Governor Haslam and the Republican leadership would seek to balance the budget on the backs of teachers and hard-working Tennesseans,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “We had the opportunity to balance the budget in a way that keeps our promise, but Republicans decided it was more important to tow the party line than vote for their constituents.”
Leader Fitzhugh introduced two amendments in the Finance Ways and Means Committee which would have balanced the budget while maintaining the promised pay increase for teachers and state employees. The amendment would have used $50 million in the Fast Track Infrastructure Development Reserve Fund, along with $31.8 million in the rainy day fund, to finance a one-time, one percent bonus for teachers and state employees. In addition, it would have signaled the legislature’s intent to give teachers and state employees an annual raise of 3% starting in 2016, along with a 2% increase for higher education employees, while giving a one-time $29 million increase to the higher education performance formula.
“We can give hundreds of millions of dollars each year to big corporations, but we can’t spare a few million to ensure a quality education and a professional workforce?” said State Rep. Joe Armstrong (D – Knoxville). “We aren’t going to get the best education system on the cheap. If we are going to expect more and more from our teachers, we should have a budget that reflects it.”
The budget package is scheduled to be heard in Calendar and Rules on Wednesday morning, with an expected hearing on the House floor this Thursday. Leader Fitzhugh intends to give the full House a chance to vote on his amendments to the budget that will keep Tennessee’s promise to parents, teachers, state employees and other hard-working Tennesseans.