Pushback starts on governor’s proposed teacher pay cut

Pushback starts on governor's proposed teacher pay cut (Image 1)

A new plan from Governor Bill Haslam to take back his proposed salary increases for state workers and teachers drew an outcry that was both public and private on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

“It feels like we are being betrayed,” Rutherford County English teacher Jim Gifford told News 2. “The governor brought that [2% pay raise] up on his own, no one asked him to say that, now he is backing out.”

He and several other Rutherford County teachers were outside the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday listening to the first formal presentation of the Governor Haslam's budget amendment that takes $150 million out the current year budget, and $155 million out of the budget proposed for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Teachers are not the only large group learning that a proposed salary increase has been eliminated for next year.

40,000 state workers won't be getting a one-percent pay increase proposed by the governor two months ago, but now taken back with the budget amendment.

“We are balancing the budget on the backs of state employees,” declared Bob O'Connell, the executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association. “For three successive years now, we have had raises proposed that were less than the increase in the cost of living.”

“No, it's not a broken promise,” Senate Republican leader Mark Norris told News 2. “I think the General Assembly aspires to be the leading state in the nation in terms of increases teacher compensation, but we have to be mindful that our constitution requires us to balance the budget.”

Yearly state tax collection estimates off by $300 million are blamed for the governor taking away what he proposed in February.

Sen. Norris said he expects fellow conservative Republican lawmakers to take a hard look at the budget amendment.

“I am sure there will be plenty of pushback as they look at different impacts, different constituency groups that are impacted by this,” added Sen. Norris.

Privately, several conservative House members told News 2 they would like to restore the proposed teacher increases, but they wanted to reserve comment until seeing the numbers in the entire budget amendment.

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