Schoolteachers and many other state workers could receive a one-time $500 bonus and a small raise, under a proposal being discussed in the state House of Representatives.
State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, plans to present a measure Thursday morning that would pay bonuses to the state's 70,000 public school teachers and about 30,000 other public sector employees by delaying new testing and projects such as the demolition of the Cordell Hull Building. The plan also calls for giving teachers and state workers a 1 percent raise if tax revenues rebound this year.
Altogether, the bonuses and pay raise would cost the state about $90 million. But Hill said the plan would not worsen the growing hole in the state budget.
"We're going to spend this money one way or another," said Hill. "This is spending that is already allocated."
The proposal comes after Gov. Bill Haslam canceled plans to offer raises to state workers, citing shortfalls in business and sales tax collections. Legislative leaders have not embraced the proposal, but it does appear to have the support of some rank-and-file Republicans. House Democrats have put out a similar plan.
Hill has introduced several measures this year meant to benefit teachers. He faces two challengers in the Republican primary.
The proposal, which Hill plans to file as an amendment to the state budget, would divert $50 million immediately from the Cordell Hull project, renovations to the tunnel beneath the Capitol, the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams and state reserve funds. That money would be used to pay bonuses.
The plan further calls for permanent raises if revenues rebound by more than $40 million.
"I feel it's important the legislature speaks and quarantines that money," Hill said.