This week, the Tennessee General Assembly adopted a $32.8 billion 2013-2014 state budget that includes a 1.5% raise for state employees, higher education employees, and K-12 teachers.
During Tuesday night’s Senate Finance, Ways, & Means Committee, some legislators were curious as to how the raise would be distributed.
Senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro sought clarification in the language of the budget amendment, asking if the 1.5% raise was for everyone, across the board. A representative of the Governor’s Administration stated that for higher education employees, the distribution of the funds is flexible and at the discretion of each institution.
This concerned Senator Ketron, who asked if that meant that some higher education employees could get 6% while others could get less than 1.5%.
Senator Jim Kyle of Memphis interjected saying, “Sometimes, [employees] don’t get anything at all.” Citing the 2011 raise for state employees, Kyle said, “[The Legislature] passed an across the board raise, went home, and found out later it wasn’t across the board at all.” Both Senators asked what the Administration’s intent was with the raise for higher education employees.
Mark Cate, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, clarified that for state employees, the raise would be across-the-board; for higher education employees, the 1.5% is put into a general pool from which the institutions distribute according to performance and merit.
Senator Kyle then asked if it would be possible to have a flat 1% across-the-board raise for all higher education employees and have the remaining .5% to be distributed according to performance. Mr. Cate responded that the Administration was trying to get away from salary policy which would tie the hands of higher education institutions, as they know where they have gaps, market differences in salary, and performance expectations. The Administration feels the institutions should get to determine the distribution of those funds.
Senator Kyle stated that there ought to be a minimum, across-the-board raise for all higher education employees. “I have a problem with people being left out,” he said, going on to say that teachers, faculty administrators and deans get the raises while the “poor folks at the bottom of the food chain doing the manual labor…don’t have a champion in the room.”
While the Senators’ ideas were not included in the budget this year, one thing is certain, Senator Kyle and Senator Ketron were the “champions in the room” for higher education employees on Tuesday night.
Please take a moment to email or call these Senators and thank them for their concern and support for the well-being of higher education employees.
Senator Jim Kyle
Senator Bill Ketron