NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State workers fear they may once again get caught in the crossfire of the state budget.
Tennessee's employees haven't had a pay raise since 2007 and in 2008, they were offered buyouts.
This year, nearly 1,000 workers face layoffs and there was talk of a 5% pay cut across the board.
Governor Phil Bredesen ultimately dismissed the idea and settled instead on removing the sales tax cap on single items costing more than $3,200 with the exception of vehicles, boats and homes.
"At a time when state employees have gone three years without any kind of pay raise, to talk of plugging this hole, balancing the budget on their backs is just sad," said Bob O'Connell, who doubles as state health department lawyer and the interim co-executive director of the Tennessee Employees Association.
The governor brought up the pay cuts Thursday when discussing the rationale for the sales tax cap removal.
Republicans, who hold majorities in both chambers, have almost universally rejected the governor's idea, but none have indicated, as of yet, a willingness to make further cuts with state employees.
House Republican Caucus Chair Glen Casada said, "I am disappointed he would take that route. It's like he would punish the legislature for not going along with his budget."
Casada says he disapproves of the pay cuts, but thinks the governor should lead.
That's exactly what Governor Bredesen says he's done.
Gov. Bredesen said, "If the legislature wants to handle it in some different way, that is certainly their prerogative."
Still, the situation does not sit well with state workers who know recent history has not been so kind.
One state worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said talk of the pay cuts was the buzz Friday throughout state office buildings.