TN state employees want raises in face of layoffs - WSMV Channel 4

TN state employees want raises in face of layoffs

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

As lawmakers get ready to begin a new session, there is new concern that state employees' jobs may be at risk again.

Last fall, the governor asked agencies to prepare for 5 percent budget cuts, but state employee leaders say they want the governor to give them 5 percent raises instead.

But just last week, the Department of Education announced it had sent 90-day warn notices to 70 people in hopes of eliminating 43 positions there.

Because the state overall has a sunny economic forecast, the talk of state employee layoffs is perplexing to some leaders.

"All of these layoffs are taking place at a time when this state can least afford to increase the unemployment roles. This is not the best time to talk about putting people out of work intentionally when you can avoid doing it," said Robert O'Connell, with the Tennessee State Employee Association.

A Department of Education spokesman cited that additional resources were unlikely for the department in tight budget times, and they had to make sure it was structured in a way to meet ambitious goals.

Also, there have been proposals to close a mental health facility in Knoxville and close the Taft Youth Center in Pikeville.

So will there be more in the coming budget?

"One of our responsibilities is to make sure we use taxpayers' money as effectively as we can," said Gov. Bill Haslam.

The State Employee Association says with more money coming in than expected, it makes no sense to lay off anyone.

In fact, they want the governor to give all employees an across-the-board 5 percent raise.

"The money is going to be there, and it's time," O'Connell said.

The State Employee Association is meeting with Haslam this week to talk with him about his budget plans and what they would like for employees this year.

Last year, the governor gave state employees a 1.6 percent raise, their first raise since 2007.

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