What Gov. Lee’s Proposed Budget Means for State Employees

TSEA March 5, 2019 Comments Off on What Gov. Lee’s Proposed Budget Means for State Employees
What Gov. Lee’s Proposed Budget Means for State Employees

Gov. Lee’s State of the State address and proposed budget

Last night Gov Bill Lee gave his first state of the state address outlining the priorities of his proposed state budget.

Here are a few selected highlights we pulled from the Governor’s budget document:


Higher Education
A general fund recurring recommendation of $56 million funds increased operational costs in the University of Tennessee system ($16.5 million), Locally Governed Institutions ($21.8 million), and the Board of Regents ($17.8 million). These funds may be used for salary increases as well as program improvements that assist the institutions in meeting outcomes such as student progression, degree production, research and service, efficiency metrics, and other outcome measures related to institutional mission. A 2.0 percent salary pool for employees working in non-formula units of higher education is funded with $8.5 million.

Health and Mental Health Services for Under-Served Populations
The state’s behavioral health safety net is expanded with $5 million recurring funding in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services that will provide services to an additional 7,000 uninsured adults with a serious mental illness. Increased operational costs at the state’s four regional mental health institutes are funded with $6.2 million recurring.

New Investments in Criminal Justice Reform
A recurring appropriation of $15.6 million is recommended in the Department of Correction to increase the starting salaries of correctional officers. The salary increase is aimed at reducing the extremely high turnover rate of these positions. An additional 40 probation and parole officers and managers in Correction are funded with a recurring appropriation of $2,170,500 and nonrecurring of $250,000. These new positions reduce current caseload levels and bring supervision standards in-line with industry best practices.

Pay for Performance and Employee Benefits
To continue implementing Pay for Performance in executive branch agencies, an appropriation of $14.4 million is recommended. This amount is the equivalent of a 2 percent across-the-board increase; however, the percentage increase each employee receives will be based on an evaluation score of valued, advanced, or outstanding. Employee evaluations will be completed on September 30, 2019, and the resulting salary increases will be effective on January 1, 2020. The six-month cost of these performance-based increases will be $14.4 million in fiscal year 2019-2020 and the annualized cost will be $28.8 million. Recurring funding for salary market adjustments is recommended at $18.5 million. 

Salary increases for state employees not covered by the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability, and Management (TEAM) Act will be funded with an appropriation of $6.7 million, which is the equivalent of a 2 percent across-the-board increase. The amount of increase each employee receives will be decided by the appointing authorities of those agencies and those increases will be effective July 1, 2019. 

Changes to state employee benefits including retirement and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) liabilities are funded with a recommendation of $20 million recurring for retirement and $12 million recurring for OPEB.


We are still learning more details about the Governor’s proposed budget. Keep in mind, the budget must now travel though the legislative process, where there are likely to be changes. As we lean more details, and if changes are made which impact state employees, we will share them with you.


To view the Budget Documents, click the links below:

The Budget, Fiscal Year 2019-2020

Volume 2: Base Budget Reductions, Fiscal Year 2019-2020

Expenditures by Object and Funding by Source, Fiscal Year 2019-2020

To view Gov. Lee’s State of the State address, or to view a transcript of his speech, click the links below:

Gov. Lee 2019 State of the State address

Gov. Lee State of the State transcript


Some notable quotes from Gov. Lee’s State of the State address:

“While our state government is far from perfect, one thing I have learned during my first two months in office is that Tennessee has the most committed, hard-working group of state employees in the country and I am proud to be serving alongside them.” – This quote was followed by a standing ovation by the members of the Tennessee Legislative Assembly.

“We need more than just strong laws to keep our communities safe; we also need strong law enforcement. It is no secret that Tennessee lags other states on law enforcement and corrections pay, which impacts our hiring and retention rates. We are increasing investments in correctional officer pay and training opportunities.”

“We must continue to invest in our outcomes-focused approach to funding higher education, which is why we’ve set aside $34 million new dollars in this budget to fully fund our higher education institutions.”

“I made a vow on the campaign trail to strengthen the mental health safety net. In this budget, I am recommending an increase of $11 million in recurring funds to our Behavioral Health Safety Net and our Regional Mental Health Institutes.”

“We recommend expanding our investment in the Safe Baby Courts initiative to support vulnerable infants and are including $5 million dollars in new funding to address a rising caseload in our Department of Children’s Services.”

Gov. Lee also took a moment to recognize the heroic actions of Lt. Travis Plotzer of the Tennessee Highway Patrol:

“A few weeks ago, amid some scary moments, one state employee jumped in to help. When the flooding started in Dickson County Lt. Travis Plotzer of the Tennessee Highway Patrol was at a flooded roadway on Highway 48. He went into chest-deep water to help rescue motorists stranded on top of their vehicles. He didn’t hesitate to be the first one to help. He showed what it really means to be a public servant; he showed what it really means to be a leader. Please join me in recognizing Lt. Travis Plotzer from Dickson County.” 

Thank you Lt. Travis Plotzer for your bravery and for being an outstanding example of a dedicated and professional state employee. 

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