Earlier this year, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam promised teachers and state employees a pay raise in the new budget year. Haslam announced last week those pay hikes would have to wait at least another year.
The governor told the Associated Press that a decline in state revenues had created a $160 million deficit in the new fiscal year. To close that shortfall, Haslam said he would have to delay his pledge to increase pay for teachers and state employees.
Haslam said he regretted not being able to give a 1 percent pay increase to state employees and 2 percent to teachers, but stressed that his administration has been able to give some pay increases since he took office in 2011. In 2013, the governor promised to raise the salaries of teachers so that by the time he leaves office their salaries will have grown by more than teacher salaries in any other state.
Even with the delay, Haslam said last week improving teacher pay is still a priority of his administration.
“The goal hasn’t gone away,” he said. “We have to deal with the realities we have.”
State House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley told the AP the governor’s delay of the salary hikes “represents a broken promise to the people of Tennessee.”
“We should not be balancing the budget on the backs of parents, teachers, state employees, colleges and universities, and countless other hard-working Tennesseans,” Fitzhugh said. “The budget presented to us shows misplaced priorities that ignore the need to focus on jobs, education and people.”
We want to hear from you. Is Haslam acting responsibly in putting pay increases for state employees and teachers on hold to plug a $160 million revenue gap in the state budget?
Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.