Governor’s Bill Haslam’s budget for the state of Tennessee will not include pay raises for public teachers and state employees, despite attempts by legislators to add them back.
Before the vote, Republican officials met to discuss Rep. Matt Hill’s push to shuffle budget items around to make room for the raises.
Hill’s proposal also banked on rising tax revenues, which other Republicans in the room called a risky bet.
As debate ping-ponged, some warned that the pay raise issue could pit the party against itself. In particular, Rep. Curry Todd, standing in front of a group of his Republican colleagues, said: “The last thing we need to do is go out of here a split Caucus.”
After giving a heartfelt eight-minute pitch on the House floor, Rep. Hill withdrew his plan. “I very reluctantly today am going to put a pause button on this passion,” Hill said.
After he withdrew his amendments, he walked quickly out of the chamber. Why did he make such an impassioned speech if he was just going to withdraw it?
“Because I didn’t have the votes, but I cared very much about what I was doing. If I ever want a chance of doing it again then I don’t wanna tick everybody off,” Hill said.
A similar move brought by Democrat Craig Fitzhugh was also turned down. Rep. Gerald McCormick called Fitzhugh’s proposal a “gimmick,” saying depending on hypothetical tax increases for teacher pay raises is a “slippery slope to go down.”
The $32 billion budget passed both chambers today.