Tenn. state worker, K-12 teacher pay raise plan re-emerges - WKRN News 2

Tenn. state worker, K-12 teacher pay raise plan re-emerges


Pay raises affecting nearly 100,000 state workers and K-12 teachers may be making a comeback on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

Republican Governor Bill Haslam proposed 2% salary increases for the teachers and 1% for state workers at his State of the State address in early February, but he took them out in his budget amendment released last week.

The governor blamed state revenue estimates coming in less than expected for several straight months.

Just after Noon Wednesday, two House Republicans showed News 2 a rough draft on a piece of scratch paper that outlined a 1% pay raise for both state workers and teachers.

The pay plan includes a one-time bonus of $500 for teachers and state workers with three years of experience.

"We want to see as much of the promise that was made fulfilled with what we can afford," said Rep. Matthew Hill, who is one of two House Republicans spearheading the pay raise effort.

Rep. Judd Matheny, the other lawmaker leading the pay raise effort, outlined in broad strokes where the money would come from to pay for the salary increases and bonuses.

"We think there is some revenue forthcoming that is not recognized yet in the budget," Matheny told News 2.

He and Rep. Hill say the 1% raise for the teachers and state workers is contingent on that new revenue coming into state coffers within a certain time period.

If it does not do what they expect, no pay raises, but the one-time bonuses would still remain.

The two said the bonuses would come out of delaying some capital projects like demolition of the John Sevier state office building, and taking 2% from some of the funds in the state's $1.7 billion in reserves.

"We think there are some wants we can put off for a year or two, and they are going to include some construction and demolition projects and non-critical issues," added Rep. Matheny.

Rep. Hill later introduced the teacher and state worker salary plan to the House Republican caucus.

"The 1% raise for teachers and employees is $40 million," Hill told his colleagues as he read from a more refined budget amendment. "We have the resources; it's a matter of prioritization."

Most of the members gathered at the 1p.m. meeting of the caucus had not seen the proposal.  

Among them was House Republican Speaker Beth Harwell who told News 2, "I had not seen it before now."

House Democrats said they too, were part of the plan.

"Appears to me it's the Tea Party and the Democrats working together," half-joked House Democratic Caucus chair Mike Turner. "We have worked together on a few things."
Democrats, who represent less than a third of the House members, have proposed their own teacher/state worker salary increases, but many say they would vote for any responsible plan to restore at least some of the pay raises.

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