published Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Tennessee group critical of pay raises for aides to state lawmakers

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee State Employees Association has cried foul over pay raises for aides to state lawmakers, but a senior administrator says the increases are no more than other employees have received.

Philip Morson, the president of the state workers group, said last week that he is concerned that secretaries, legal advisers and other assistants to Tennessee legislators have received bigger raises than workers with similar jobs at other state agencies.

The group's concerns come after WSMV-TV obtained records of legislative staffers' pay for the past three years. The Tennessean also has obtained copies of the records.

The dispute centers on the size of salary adjustments after Gov. Bill Haslam set aside $30 million in 2012 to align the pay of state workers with the salaries of private sector employees.

Morson said state workers who got a pay adjustment received an average boost of about 4.5 percent. Several legislative aides, however, received increases of 10 percent or more. Many of those same aides also got raises for promotions, job changes, education certifications or new responsibilities.

"We certainly are not against anybody getting a raise per se," he said. "The thing we are against is inequity."

Connie Ridley, the General Assembly's director of administration, said legislative aides' salary adjustments were based on a study into the pay of people with similar positions in the private sector, other state legislatures and in the Haslam administration.

"I think the thing that's been a little misleading is the implication that they're getting something others are not," she said. "We don't have any additional funds."

Records show Russell Humphrey, the chief clerk of the Senate, earns the most of anyone in the state Legislature -- $176,124 a year. Ten other aides, most of them top administrators or lawyers, make more than $120,000 a year. The vast majority of legislative staffers are paid $60,000 or less.

House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey each make $60,609 a year, plus $188 a day for expenses. Other lawmakers make $20,203 plus the same daily rate for expenses.

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