TSEA Meets with Governor Haslam
On Friday, TSEA President Phil Morson, Executive Director Robert O’Connell, and Government Affairs Director Sarah Adair attended our annual meeting with Governor Haslam to discuss TSEA’s legislative agenda. The Governor began by explaining that we are presently facing a budget shortfall, mostly due to a decline in business tax revenue and increases in the TennCare and K-12 budgets. As per the Governor’s November departmental budget hearings, we are facing 5% cuts across all departments, which would result in a net loss of approximately 160 state employees. The Governor stated that he will have a recommendation on a salary increase for us soon, but the numbers were not yet finalized at the time of our meeting. Governor Haslam’s State of the State Address, where the budget is presented to the legislature, will be held on Monday, February 3rd.
TSEA discussed our concerns with the funding of last year’s Salary Study and how senior employees seemed to be denied this funding, making compression worse. We also asked the Governor to look into the disbursement of the funds across each grand division, because it appears our employees in the east were disproportionately left out of the Salary Study raises and increases as compared to employees in the rest of the state.
We also shared our ongoing concerns with the performance management system and how the present cycle will not end until November 2014, though state employees usually receive pay raises in July. We stated that if Merit Pay was included in this budget, it would be based on a system that is still being revised. It would also result in employees waiting 18 months for a raise. The Governor said he is aware that the present system is still a work in progress and they are taking that into consideration. TSEA stated that we hoped he would consider a raise in July with potential merit pay awaiting improvements in the Performance Management system.
We presented two items from our Legislative Agenda to the Governor in hopes that he would support them in his budget:
The first is our Medicare Supplemental Insurance bill ( HB1738/SB1824), which sets the state’s contribution at a percentage of the premium instead of a set dollar amount that we have had for more than 10 years.
The second is our Retiree/Spouse Tuition Discount bill ( HB0887/SB1164), which we see as a natural fit with the Governor’s Drive to 55 Initiative.
Other issues discussed were our concerns over privatization. We stated that we would continue to oppose contracting out services that displaced state workers. We also talked about our present negotiations with the Department of Human Resources (DOHR) on its TEAM Act “clean up” bill. The Governor said that he was aware that we were working with both DOHR and the House Leadership to find a resolution to this bill.
Lastly, we made the governor aware of the surplus within our health insurance reserve fund. Presently, the fund is 200% over the required reserve amount. We explained our bill ( HB1711/SB1814), which requires this money to be spent down to lower our out-of-pocket expenses. Likewise, we explained that we really should not need this bill if Benefits and Administration would agree to a plan to use these funds, perhaps with a premium holiday.