Haslam Raises Salary of TennCare Director to $256K

Gov. Bill Haslam has quietly raised the annual salary of TennCare Director Darin Gordon to $256,000 while leaving other top administration officials with only the 2.5 percent salary boost given to all state employees this year.
“Tennessee is fortunate to have Darin in this role. He is well-respected across the country and has saved the state millions by keeping the program’s growth trend below national averages,” said Haslam spokesman David Smith in an email response to a question on Gordon’s salary increase.
“He is responsible for managing the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, which is significant in terms of the number of Tennesseans the program serves as well as the dollars — both state and federal — that fund the program,” Smith said.
The Gordon pay raise took effect in September. All state employees got a 2.5 percent increase effective July 1, in accordance with a Haslam-proposed budget approved by the Legislature. After the 2.5 percent increase, Gordon’s pay was $234,734, Smith said. The subsequent increase to $256,000 amounts to another 7.3 percent hike.
TennCare’s overall budget, meanwhile, continues to expand.

Haslam said last week that preliminary projections are that TennCare will need another $350 million in funding in the next fiscal year — using up almost all of a projected $369 million in anticipated new revenue for 2013-14.
The governor’s move comes as he contemplates two health care policy decisions that could impact Gordon’s duties. First, Haslam faces a deadline Friday in deciding whether to launch a Tennessee health care exchange or let the federal government operate the insurance marketplace that is part of the federal Affordable Care Act.
In the months ahead, the governor also must decide whether to expand TennCare coverage to more Tennesseans as the federal law allows, but does not require, under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Many Republican legislators oppose both proposals.
Gordon has been TennCare director since 2006, when he was named to the position by former Gov. Phil Bredesen. He had worked in other positions at the agency since 2002.
Gordon is the highest-paid member of the governor’s cabinet with Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman second, earning $208,284 after the 2.5 percent increase.
Haslam raised salaries of 13 executive branch commissioners by amounts ranging from 11 percent to 32 percent shortly after taking office in January 2011. State employees generally got a 1.6 percent increase on July 1, 2011, and cabinet members received that increase as well.
The January 2011 adjustments, defended by Haslam at the time as part of assuring “we have the very best people we can have,” gave most cabinet members an annual salary in the $150,000 to $180,000 range.
A check of a state website listing all state employee salaries indicates those who got $150,000 as they took office now earning $156,216. These include the commissioners of agriculture, commerce and insurance, corrections, environment and conservation, financial institutions, general services, human resources, human services, intellectual disabilities, labor, revenue, mental health, transportation, tourism development and veterans affairs.
Those making $180,000 in January 2011 are now making $187,452. They include Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty.The website for state employee salaries is located at https://apps.tn.gov/salary-app/search.html.

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