(Note: Updates & corrects earlier post)
From Richard Locker in the Commercial Appeal:
Gov. Bill Haslam today defended the pay raises he gave to most of his Cabinet compared to what their predecessors were making and said that compared to the Cabinet officers’ former positions, they’ve taken a collective million-dollar pay cut.
The pay raises are 11 percent for 13 Cabinet officials compared with what their predecessors were paid under former governor Phil Bredesen and one 32 percent hike — for the commissioner of the state Department of Safety.
Seven positions received no raises. One position is new — the commissioner of the Department of Intellectual Disabilities.
“I had commissioners who had very good jobs making good salaries and gave up something to come to work for the state. I won’t apologize for that. My job is to get the very best people we can to help us as we had to cut $1.8 billion out of the budget, which we are unfortunately going to have to do,” Haslam told members of the Tennessee State Employees Association at the start of their lobby day on Capitol Hill.
Haslam has proposed, in the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, a 1.6 percent pay raise for state employees. If the legislature approves it as expected, it will be the first pay raise for state workers since July 1, 2007. TSEA leaders expressed gratitude for the proposed hike but said it should be more.
TSEA distributed lapel buttons to its members saying “1.6% after 4 years; 11 % after 4 minutes.”
The Haslam Cabinet – commissioners of the nearly two dozen executive branch departments – is being paid salaries ranging from $150,000 to $200,000. Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, who took office last week, is paid the highest rate, $200,000, which is up $20,000 from his predecessor under Bredesen. The Associated Press reported that Huffman was paid about $230,000 as an executive at the not-for-profit Teach for America in 2009 according to its federal tax return, the latest year available.
Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons is paid nearly $178,000, up 32 percent, or $43,000 from his predecessor.
The governor’s meeting with TSEA was civil. Before he entered the state House chamber where the group’s members had gathered, its leadership told their members that Haslam “has had the door open to us.”
Haslam told the rank-and-file that the 1.6 percent pay hike he proposed “is not nearly what you deserve after three years without a raise but I think it’s a start. … I believe your job should be compensated at (the level of) a comparable job in the private sector. That was one of the things we tried to do as mayor (of Knoxville). We will try do the same thing here.”