Dem leaders says Gov. Haslam may have 'usurped' power

Dem leaders says Gov. Haslam may have 'usurped' power

August 3rd, 2011 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is pictured in this file photo. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the News Sentinel)

NASHVILLE - A top House Democratic leader today questioned whether Gov. Bill Haslam "usurped" legislative authority by unilaterally denying 1.6 percent pay raises to hundreds of state workers disciplined over the past year.

"I think it's wrong," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville told reporters. "There's a disciplinary process for somebody who does something that is wrong or deemed wrong."

Haslam, a Republican, blocked across-the-board cost-of-living increases for 771 state employees. Of that number, 556 didn't get the July 1 increases because of a decision by Haslam and his cabinet that they shouldn't have a raise because they had been disciplined in the previous 12 months.

Another 163 didn't get a raise because of poor performance evaluations, a provision long incorporated in budgetary language.

Human Resources figures show 52 more workers didn't see the cost-of-living adjustment after receiving a low evaluation and also being the recipient of disciplinary action.

"This was kind of like piling it on," Turner said. "We didn't talk about this when we put it [across the board pay increases] ... The intent of the legislature was to give those to everybody and it appears to me the governor has usurped some legislative power and that was not our intent."

Haslam spokesman David Smith said, "We believe the actions are appropriate and that Tennesseans agree."

The governor is visiting Tennessee troops in Iraq and Kuwait this week.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.