Lawmakers React to Haslam Cabinet Raises

Democrats say they’re surprised that Gov. Bill Haslam would opt to pay his top agency bosses 11 percent more than his predecessor did.

“I think at a time of high unemployment, this really sends the wrong signal to increase the pay of the state’s top administrators and these commissioners,” said state Sen. Lowe Finney, a high ranking Democrat from Jackson.

According to a report by The Associated Press, Haslam’s state commissioners’ minimum salary is $15,000 higher than that those from Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration.

Haslam raised the minimum salary to $150,000 from $135,000 for agency heads, according to The AP. The maximum is now $200,000, up from a previous $180,000 high.

Republican leaders across the board say they support Haslam’s decision to pay high-level commissioners more money if it means better returns in the long run.

“We’re honored and pleased to have these commissioners and they need to be paid accordingly,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell who said the high quality leaders will ultimately find ways to make government more efficient. She added that there’s “no good time” to give a raise, but said she backs the governor’s move.

“I think in the state of Tennessee we need to have fewer employees who make more money each,” said Rep. Gerald McCormick, the House Republican Leader. “You’ve got to be competitive in pay in order to attract good people.”

In the next few months, lawmakers will be considering cuts to the state budget after about $2 billion in federal stimulus dollars run out. Haslam has offered to reduce the number of state employees from 5,100 to 4,800 but give remaining employees a 1.6 percent raise after a four-year pay freeze.

The raises are part of a larger strategy to reform state government, said a Haslam spokesman.

“State pay will never rival the pay in private sector, but if we’re going to attract great people we’re going to have to at least make it comparable,” spokesman David Smith told TNReport in an emailed statement.

“He has hired a great team to make state government more efficient and effective, and these commissioners should end up saving the state more money than the increase in their salary. They’ll do it by managing smartly, which is typically done by providing better service with fewer people,” he continued.

The following chart is courtesy of Gov. Bill Haslam’s communications office.

  • cannoneer2

    After this, the Gov and Legislature will sit on their collective rear ends and do absolutely nothing regarding compensation for anyone else employed by state government. As usual.

  • Dave

    You should check out the big staff salary increases. I saw one assistant staffer making 50 percent more than their Democratic predecessor. The salary went from less than 30 to 45.

  • Barbara

    If they would do the job of serving the people of TN then it wouldn’t be so bad. If they would deport the illegals who cost the state’s taxpayers billions of dollars every year I’d pay them twice what they’re now getting.

    The problem is they spend their time seeking the interests of business and do nothing to preserve the United States and the interests of the founding stock.

  • cannoneer2

    And they’ll use their remaining time performing as Haslam’s cheerleaders.

  • http://none webster1305

    Apparently Haslam is not worried about attracting good employees to state government positions or keeping good people since those salaries are so low and street level bureaucrats are the people who work directly with the public!

  • Davis

    This gauls me. State employees haven’t had a raise in four years, and Haslam is proposing a 1.6 raise this year. Yet, the administration can give these people tens of thousands of dollars in raises. The governor’s staff also received some hefty raises. You should compare salaries for the governor’s office now with those from Bredesen.

  • Eric Holcombe

    I’d say most of the citizens out here paying the bills haven’t had a raise in four years either. There have been a lot of weeks during that time period our full time jobs haven’t been full time. By the way, a lot of us are unemployed. What’s the unemployment rate among state employees who are whining about not getting a raise?

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