Senate Budget Plan Now Includes Employee-Teacher Bonus

The Senate Finance Committee approved a pay bonus plan for state employees and teachers late Thursday night, effectively offering a compromise on one of the key differences in an ongoing House-Senate standoff over a new state budget.
The Senate Republican plan would provide a salary bonus of $50 for each year of service by a state employee, teacher or higher education employee, which would cost the state about $50 million. The funding would be contingent on state revenues coming in above official estimates.
The House version of the budget calls for granting each teacher and state employee a flat $500 “recession stipend,” which would cost the state about $72 million.
Senate Republicans had previously opposed any bonus for state workers and teachers. Gov. Phil Bredesen, in his budget plan, had proposed a 3 percent across-the-board bonus, which would cost about $113 million.
Otherwise, however, substantial differences remain between the House and Senate budget plans. In general, the House proposes to spend more out of state reserves while the Senate proposes to make more cuts to the budget.
The Senate Finance Committee approved its budget bill about 10:45 p.m. after more than six hours of debate and discussion, much of it devoted to arguments against various proposed cuts. In most cases, the Republican majority on the committee stuck with the cuts as planned and rejected extra spending programs that have been advanced in the House.
The Senate then convened in floor session, where the lawmakers dealt with around 30 non-controversial bills before adjourning at about midnight. The next Senate floor session will be Wednesday; the same day the House will meet again.

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