Republican Floats Compromise To Salvage Teacher Pay Raises

Top House GOP officials spoke to members at a caucus meeting Wednesday, with some warning it's unlikely the state will find enough money for raises or bonuses this year. (Photo: Daniel Potter/WPLN)

Top House GOP officials spoke to members at a caucus meeting Wednesday, with some warning it’s unlikely the state will find enough money for raises or bonuses this year. (Photo: Daniel Potter/WPLN)

An East Tennessee Republican is asking lawmakers to give teachers and state employees pay increases by moving around money in the budget.

In a meeting with his fellow GOP lawmakers, Rep. Matthew Hill proposed to do a combination of things to boost pay, including re-allocated some money and counting on additional tax revenue next year.

The last-ditch proposal would push back the demolition of the Cordell Hull office building, wait on fixing the capitol’s leaky tunnel roof and take away money from a standardized test related to Common Core.

With those savings – and assuming tax revenues go up – Hill says that will be enough to give teachers and state employees a 1 percent salary boost, and a one-time $500 bonus.

“There’s nothing wrong with sending a clear message to our teachers and our state employees that we support them, we appreciate them, and we’re trying to find reasonable financial solutions to help them.”

The proposal was met with skepticism.

For one, House Speaker Beth Harwell says generating more tax revenue next year is unlikely.

Republican lawmakers will reconvene on the idea Thursday.

Democrats floated a similar idea this week, but a measure sponsored by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh was slapped down during budget discussions Wednesday night.

Gov. Bill Haslam recently reneged on his plan to increase pay for state employees and teachers because of sagging tax revenue collections.

According to state figures, sales tax collections and business taxes did not meet their projections this year, a predicament triggering some $150 million in reductions.

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