State employees to ask for 7 percent raise

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 10:50pm

Members of the Tennessee State Employees Association said they’re tired of being an afterthought in the state’s budget and will ask for a 7 percent raise next year.

Members of the group said that while state employee salaries have held steady over the past three years the cost of living had gone up 7 percent and health insurance costs have increased sharply, squeezing some out of coverage.

Robert O’Connell, executive director of TSEA, said word that state revenue collections were too low to enact an additional one-time longevity payment for state workers was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

That word came in a letter from state Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz to state leaders Friday stating that revenue collections hadn’t surpassed the estimated revenue by $50 million, a threshold set by the legislature last year that would have kicked in the additional one-time payment for state employees.

“It is time for state employees to come first when the budget is written and adopted,” O’Connell said.

Gregory Arnold started working for the state about four years ago for more than $10 an hour and hasn’t seen a raise yet. Arnold guards inmates for the maximum security forensic service program at the Tennessee Mental Health Institute on Stewarts Ferry Pike.

“I pay child support and have my kids and try to take care of my family, but it’s hard,” Arnold said. “It hurts to know they don’t care about us like this.

If it were up to Arnold, he’d propose that state workers just not go to work.

“What would they do then?”


24 Comments on this post:

By: cyndietodd on 10/5/10 at 9:14

Okay, so four years guarding max sec inmates at $10 an hour w/no increase? Seriously? What kind of Dem bs is that?

And outside of TSEA, pay scales are not equitable, but political. Just sayin'.

By: richgoose on 10/5/10 at 9:23

I like the gall of the state employees.

By: cannoneer2 on 10/6/10 at 2:07

If the TSEA is serious about this 7 percent request, they have a roadmap to follow to achieve it. When the Legislature goes into session, surround the Capitol with thousands of angry horn honking state employees. Make the legislators cower in their little palace up there.

By: Kosh III on 10/6/10 at 6:03

7% would hardly make up for the years that pay has fallen behind. Jan 1 insurance costs for state employees goes up by almost 40%.
The Legislature promised to fix "compression" in 2008 but have failed to do so. Another broken promise but since the GOP is in control it is hardly a surprise to see working people get screwed over.
But (sarcasm alert) at least the Commissioners and top management got pay raises of 40-110% recently.

By: me55 on 10/6/10 at 6:29

Just be damn thankful you have a job!

By: localboy on 10/6/10 at 7:22

Good point, Kosh.

By: cval on 10/6/10 at 7:23

What have State employees done to provide jobs to the citizens of Tn equal to what State employees make in pay, benefits, retirement, and short work weeks? What have State employees contributed to controlling waste and graft and unnecessary spending over the last ten years? Why do State employees feel they deserve to live better and more secure lives than the citizens of Tn? Tell you what. If any State employee feels under paid or under privileged, try making it in the private sector. We can't afford to bleed any more money so you can have it made. Sorry. You had your chance and you did nothing with it. We trusted you as employees of the people and yet all you did was go on coffee breaks when the lines at your window were too long. You treated us like cattle. You misfiled our requests for action at the State level and lost our files. You ignored us when we had needs. When we were suffering, you went to the golf course and took off work early every Friday. Now STUFF IT! If any legislator gives you or themselves an extra penny, they are OUT OF OFFICE!!!!!!! Get it?

By: ladybluz on 10/6/10 at 8:09

The 'Eagles' have a song called "GET OVER IT", that fits my feelings precisely on this matter. Quit trying to shove the idea of your(TSEA) entitlements down our throats. So, you're a state employee who didn't get more personal income to squander. Social Security beneficiaries are facing their 2nd year with NO COLA in sight. Unemployment is sky high. Homelessness is uncontrollable. Directly to TSEA I say, "quit yer crying and bitchin and pitchin' a fit...get over it..." Try living on $767.00 a month and $40.00 in food stamps. When u can do that then maybe we can discuss your entitlements and bonuses. The whole damn world don't owe you a thing!

By: RTungsten on 10/6/10 at 8:16

Short work days, paid time off for every holiday under the sun, no meaningful performance reviews, long lunches and a 7% raise? Sign me up!

By: gdiafante on 10/6/10 at 9:21

Does anyone post anything other than stereotypes?

My guess is that most of you who complain (about everything) lack the aptitude to do the most basic government job, hence the antipathy.

By: richgoose on 10/6/10 at 9:32

And some like gdiafante never complain because they probably do not see or understand the "big picture". That is okay. Their opinion carries a lot more weight than those who do not know there IS a "big picture"

By: cval on 10/6/10 at 9:54

gdiafante- How hard are most Govt jobs? The most strenuous thing an executive type does is putt out on the 18th hole. You all spend your work day doing nothing, helping no one, and complaining about how tired you are. It doesn't matter if anyone is counting on your help, if it's Friday, you're on the way out the door for the weekend you always get to enjoy away from work - unlike the slaves in the private sector. You haven't the aptitude to make it in the private sector, so don't resort to name calling. You will lose.

By: dartow on 10/6/10 at 10:02

Here's the compromise: lay off 10% of the (the lazy and useless ones) State Employees workforce and then pay the ones that are left the raise. For that matter, the state needs to be run like a company. If it breaks even (or makes a surplus) keep the people that make it happen and reward them. But, if it dont... get rid of the ones that are doing a bad job and replace them with people that care and would be happy to have a job.

Back to basics & common sense!!!

By: marbyn on 10/6/10 at 10:38

I guess the state employees have just as much right to ask for a raise as any other working person does. After all, we know we won't get it so what's the big fuss? Some people seem to think that since they pay taxes, they are paying our salaries and therefore should have the right to say no raises. NEWS FLASH! State employees pay taxes too! Some parts of state government even generate revenue and pay their own expenses including salaries. They even contribute to the general fund or rainy day fund as well.
We are at work 8 hours a day and have 1 hour lunches and we get paid for 37.5 hours per week, not 40. We do have paid holidays but I have never worked anywhere that didn't have paid holidays. The state is an employer just like any other business. Why should we not be entitled to the same benefits that other companies pay their employees? I worked in a private sector job and received paid 30 minute lunches, 11 paid holidays, including my birthday, annual wage increases, retirement and 401k. Did I say private sector?

By: JDG on 10/6/10 at 11:15

“It is time for state employees to come first when the budget is written and adopted,” O’Connell said.

Really? i thought it was the citizenry that was supposed to come first. You want a 7% increase here is what you do. Establish a rigorous employee evaluation, like the private sector, and receive your increases on merit, while weeding out the bottom feeders who are keeping the good employees from getting the recognition they deserve, like the private sector.Establish better ways to do the work of the State, and produce a better caliber of service, in other words, fund your increases through improvement, like the private sector, especially in dicey economic times. At the risk of sounding flippant, no one put a gun to your head and forced you to take a job with the State. If it is not meeting your expectations, explore the rest of the economy, and then see how things stack up.

By: BigPapa on 10/6/10 at 1:05

That's the main problem with government. You can't give a raise or a bonus to high performing employees w/o giving everyone the same thing.

By: Kosh III on 10/6/10 at 2:20

"Establish a rigorous employee evaluation, like the private sector, and receive your increases on merit,"
There are evaluations regularly but NEVER merit increases because the Gov and Legislature REFUSE to consider it.
"For that matter, the state needs to be run like a company. If it breaks even (or makes a surplus) keep the people that make it happen and reward them."
How do propose that? Must the Highway patrol write enough tickets to fund itself.
Corrections? Parole Board? Mental Health?
How about Childrens Services? Will YOU and your church volunteer to take over handling abused, neglected troubled and foster children?

By: marbyn on 10/6/10 at 2:40

How can you people pass judgement on 42,000 state employees based on your experiences with a few? Talk about narrow minded. Yes, there are great state employees and then there are less than good employees. You find that in every business. But you don't know how hard you citizens are to deal with. I have been asked why someone was at lunch. Don't we deserve to eat like you? Do you get breaks at your place of employment? Why shouldn't we. The state is an employer and we have every right to expect the same from them that you expect from yours.

By: localboy on 10/6/10 at 2:47

Many of the functions performed by gov't appear to be those that the private sector will not perform because of issues such as liability (see Kosh's remark re: corrections, mental health, childrens services) or the public does not want to privatize because the equivalent private sector service would be charged at a higher rate (private sector typically wants to turn a profit). Where the private sector has taken a contract to perform a formerly public sector service, it appears that it is in an area which can be cherry-picked and therefore a profit margin can be obtained. That doesn't mean that areas shouldn't be reexamined periodically to see if a private contract isn't viable, just be prepared for government to be the catch-all for the most expensive or unattractive functions. You will not eliminate the need for the government to employ workers and those workers will have to be paid.

By: jwk6179 on 10/6/10 at 8:39

Another thing people seem to forget is that most government employees (with the exception of Federal Employees) get paid substancely less than the same jobs in the private sector. I know quite a few state employees that have over 20 YEARS of service with the that are just barely making $30,000 a year. Being a former state employee, I would tell my friends how much I made a year and they would tell me "You're kidding, aren't you?" I find that most people that complain about how much state employees (or anyone else) make a hellava lot more than the people they are complaining about. I remember when Phil Valentine was complaining several years ago about people at Bridgestone making $18 an hour, yet when asked how much he made an hour, he refused to talk about it.

By: JDG on 10/7/10 at 6:50

Yeah Kpsh, I have been privy to the evaluations and they are remedial at best. Until you can weed out the weak links, modernize and become more efficient, and quit having a "I hava a right to a job" mentality the state employees will forever suffer a lag to the private sector, becasue the private sector is not afraid to make the hard choices in regard to non-performing employees, and cannot survive without offering something the public needs and wants in enough volume to validate offering it. THe state is under no such restrictions.

As for duties that the private sector does not want to perform, that is the market speaking which is the way our system is supposed to work, rather than as the "collective".

I repeat

At the risk of sounding flippant, no one put a gun to your head and forced you to take a job with the State. If it is not meeting your expectations, explore the rest of the economy, and then see how things stack up.

By: JDG on 10/7/10 at 6:57

Look, I am not bashing all state employees, just the model by which they operate. Obviously for the most part they perform tasks which are necessary for state government to work and there are some d@@m fine ones who do it, but there is a lot of unnecessary work being performed also, by less than competent people and to say that ALL state employees are asking for a 7% raise, and that ALL state employees DESERVE it is ludicrous.

By: localboy on 10/7/10 at 8:10

"As for duties that the private sector does not want to perform, that is the market speaking which is the way our system is supposed to work, rather than as the "collective"." Too true...except the market is not rational, as the state is the safety net for those public services that all citizens desire or need and that if provided by the private sector would be priced beyond the means of the majority to afford, and in essence subsidizes the prices being charged by segments of the market...the "collective" makes the cost of the services bearable, being spread over a much wider number of participants.
One argument would seem to center on which services that today we obtain from the state government would we be willing to do without, and thereby eliminate those services (and the employees providing them) from the state budget. The model under which state employees are reimbursed is stifling for individual achievement, no argument there. Do all state employees deserve a raise? Nope. However, it would seem they are due a raise if one was promised in the past then was held back due to budgetary issues.

By: cheerfulwisdom on 10/20/10 at 2:06

I work for the state of tennesse in higher education. I am a state employee, but working in higher ed. we do not receive some of the benefits that "goverment employess" receive (i.e., goverment workers at the capitol in Nashville).

When the state needs money, they usually turn to the universities and our community colleges and say, "ok, we will need at least 3% for early next year (2011).
Roughly in the past 2 years, the college I work at has returned back to the state, approximately 26% of what the college was allotted during that time period. We have had to cut back in a number of areas and services in the college to be able to meet that amount. Yes, there has also been some buyouts of employees who were close to retirement (with stimulus money). Those positions were not filled.

With the request for at least another 3% in early 2011, the college may have to actually lay people off this time. Whose blood are they going to ask for July 1, when they can't meet the budget-again?

I'm sorry to say that education in Tennessee is going down hill fast. Not only higher ed., but K-12 as well. A few years ago there was a rumor that our teachers were leaving Tennessee and heading to Georgia, Virginia, etc., because they could get better paying teaching jobs there.

Two years ago, a salary equity committee was formed and a plan was made to bring our (the college I work at) salaries up to at least the minimum of a comparable job in the private sector. Well, guess what happened . . . there was no money available to do the salary equity, because we were asked (by the State of Tennessee finance folks in Nashville) to fork over some of that 26% that we have had to give back.

I don't want a state income tax, but how are we going to stop the bleeding of Tennessee's financial downfall?

It would be nice if the State of Tennessee could win the Lottery!