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?”