FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 4, 2015
Contact: Chris Dauphin
Phone: (615) 256-4533, 800-251-8732
TSEA opposes legislation eliminating longevity pay and reducing health insurance benefits
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Employees Association opposes legislation that would eliminate Longevity Pay for all Executive Branch state employees and make significant reductions to the state health insurance plan.
During a public hearing Tuesday before the House State Government Committee, TSEA Executive Director John Summers argued against eliminating Longevity Pay for state workers.
“State employees do not receive automatic cost of living adjustments or step raises,” Summers said. “Longevity Pay is the only statutorily-guaranteed salary increase for most state employees.”
HB647, “The Compensation Enhancement Act,” if adopted would eliminate Longevity Pay for Executive Branch employees as of June 30, 2015. Employees would receive a one-time, permanent increase in their base salary equal to half of their longevity payment due, effective July 1, 2015 – after that, Longevity Pay would cease to exist.
Then, beginning in January, a Pay-For-Performance (or Merit Pay) system would be implemented. All employees evaluated as “Valued” would receive a 2% pay increase; employees evaluated as “Advanced” would receive 3%, and those evaluated as “Outstanding” would receive 4% for FY2016.
HB648 if adopted would impact state employees in several ways. A few of those include reducing the percentage paid by the state for an employee’s dependents beginning in calendar year 2017, eliminating health insurance coverage for part time employees hired after June 30, 2015, allowing the state to deny coverage to spouses of state employees who are eligible for similar group health insurance through the spouses’ employer, and eliminating health insurance coverage for retirees hired after June 30, 2015
TSEA invited DOHR Commissioner Rebecca Hunter as well as the Executive Director of Benefits Administration Laurie Lee to their Saturday, February 28 Board of Director’s meeting to explain the proposals in detail.
“While TSEA is very appreciative of the time and detailed information provided by Commissioner Hunter, Deputy Commissioner Barnes, and Executive Director Lee, we simply cannot support efforts that strip employees of their Longevity Pay and eliminate or weaken their health insurance benefits,” TSEA President Bryan Merritt said. “We will actively fight this legislation.”
Governor Haslam has stated that his focus is on recruiting, retaining and rewarding a talented state government workforce. However, reducing health insurance benefits for state employees while also eliminating any assurances of future salary increases is inconsistent with that goal.
The House State Government Subcommittee today was scheduled to discuss HB647, the bill that would eliminate Longevity Pay for the majority of state employees; however, that discussion was postponed two weeks at the request of the Haslam administration.
HB648 was deferred to March 9 in the Joint Pensions and Insurance Committee.
Founded in 1974, TSEA represents the rights and interests of 43,000 state employees in Tennessee and has a rich history of improving the lives of its state employee members. For further information, visit TSEA’s website at www.tseaonline.org.