TNDP: Haslam Pay Raises Send Wrong Message

From Brandon Puttbrese, Tennessee Democratic Party Communications Director:
Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision to give hefty raises to cabinet-level appointees took many people by surprise. We are not opposed to the pay raises, but we are surprised by Haslam’s timing for them and the message he is sending to the many Tennesseans who are struggling with unemployment, who are getting no raises because of the poor economy and some who even are experiencing salary reductions.


The governor has authorized top-level administration officials salary increases ranging from 11 percent to 32 percent. At the same time, he has proposed a 1.6 percent salary increase for other state employees, which has yet to be approved in the new budget. The annual increases range from about $15,000 to $43,000 on top of salaries in the $135,000 to $180,000 range.
Haslam is a savvy businessman. He understands that to attract top people, he must be able to offer them competitive salaries. That is a solid rule of successful business. We supported former Gov. Phil Bredesen when he raised the salaries of top administration officials in 2007. But Haslam’s situation is different, and we question his timing.
Bredesen adjusted salaries when he was running for reelection as an incentive to keep top performing officials on the job. He, too, was a savvy businessman, and another solid rule of business is to pay for performance. Haslam’s appointees are new to their jobs, and while they come from successful backgrounds, they have yet to prove their value to the Haslam administration and to the state. We support the idea of paying for performance, including Haslam’s legislation tying teacher tenure and earnings to performance. We believe the idea should be applied to top administration officials, too.
The other difference between the Bredesen raises and those authorized by Haslam is the condition of the state’s and the nation’s economies. Tennessee was on sound financial footing in 2007, and the nation was yet to experience the economic meltdown of late 2008. You could justify higher salaries during prosperous times.
But that is not where Tennessee is today. The state faces as much as a $2 billion budget shortfall. Unemployment rates are high and in double digits in many Tennessee counties. The new jobs Haslam talked about during his campaign have yet to arrive.
One troubling justification Haslam offered regarding the salary increases is that his higher paid commissioners actually would save the sate money. They would do that by making spending cuts and helping him eliminate about 1,200 state government positions and potentially some employees’ jobs. We see no connection between paying top officials more and their being able to make budget cuts and eliminate jobs.

One thought on “TNDP: Haslam Pay Raises Send Wrong Message

  1. Al Cardona

    Sounds more to me like the folks at the top make the money while the folks at the bottom struggle to even get to work, if they have a job. How does one create jobs while cutting jobs in the government sector. Seems that would only place more people in the job market, taking job offers for less money because of the increased competition. Is Haslam’s idea of creating jobs setting up Pilots on every corner, where people work for barely minimum wage? Are these people who make the decisions Waltons? Haslam, enjoy your years in office. You certainly won’t receive my vote again.

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