By Michael Cass, The Tennessean
Gov. Bill Haslam's
administration and the state employees association have reached a
compromise on the TEAM Act, Haslam's proposed rewrite of the state's
civil service rules, the governor said Monday.
unveiled a proposed budget amendment that, among other things, would
reduce the sales tax on food beyond what he originally recommended and
provide $1 million for land acquisition and maintenance at Radnor Lake State Natural Area in Nashville.
"That is a huge shot in the arm to our fundraising efforts," said Charley Hankla, past president of Friends of Radnor Lake.
governor said the Tennessee State Employees Association approached the
administration last week and said that, with "minor adjustments," it
could support the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management,
or TEAM, Act. A deal was reached over the weekend.
"I think as we
work our way through the committees this week, you'll see TSEA
supporting us in what we're trying to do," Haslam said.
O'Connell, the employees association's executive director, agreed that
his group and the administration are "now on the same side of the issue."
"We're gratified to have been heard by the administration," O'Connell added.
Among the changes TSEA sought were:
• A chance to be involved in developing a new employee evaluation system.
A move to make the required notice period for state layoffs 60 days in
the first year of the new law, which would start Oct. 1. The notice
period would still drop to 30 days eventually; it now stands at 90 days,
• If an employee is laid off and a new position
with his or her classification later opens up, the state will notify the
employee and guarantee him or her an interview.
seniority as a factor in decisions about which employees to lay off.
O'Connell and Haslam said performance would be paramount, however, as
the legislation moves forward to drop the system known as "bumping."
lets laid-off state workers move into positions held by less senior
employees. The system can create situations in which the most recent
person hired ends up losing his or her job, while longtime workers are
virtually guaranteed a position, Haslam has said.
process would scrap that and replace it with "a system of merit and
skills and ability being the first things considered," Haslam said
O'Connell said the employees association was pleased to see seniority would remain "in the mix."
primary consideration will be performance, which doesn't give us as
much heartburn now as it originally did, because the performance
evaluation system itself is going to be overhauled," he said. "We feel
now we've got a better shot at that looking more objective."
Raises in budget
Haslam said the proposed 2012-13 budget includes a 2.5 percent across-the-board raise for all state employees.
governor also announced a proposed budget amendment reflecting new
projections of state revenues. The governor said his priorities include
cutting the sales tax on food slightly more than he had initially
recommended, reducing it from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent.
original plan called for cutting the grocery tax to 5.3 percent. Making
the further step down to 5.25 percent would cost the state roughly an
additional $3.3 million.
The governor said the biggest reason for
the additional cut involved cash registers, which can process increments
of a quarter of a cent more easily when computing sales tax on a
purchase. He said he wants to cut the grocery tax another quarter of a
point to an even 5 percent in 2013-14.
Other highlights of the budget amendment include:
• Giving local jails $4 million, to increase per diem payments from $35 to $37.
• Putting $3.9 million toward Healthy Start and child health and development programs statewide.
• Making $3 million available to fund family resource centers across the state.
• Putting $375,000 into a poison control center providing statewide services.
• Using $122,000 to fund legislation requiring unemployment recipients to verify their job search efforts.
$1 million for land acquisition and maintenance at Radnor Lake came as a
big surprise to Hankla, who works in industrial real estate and lives
near the 1,258-acre state park.
"That's the best phone call I've gotten all day," he told a reporter. "I'm absolutely astounded."
said Friends of Radnor Lake would be able to use the money to help make
strategic land purchases and continue work needed to recover from the
historic flood of 2010, including rebuilding roads and shoring up
Haslam's announcement about helping Radnor Lake came nine days after The Tennessean wrote about the Friends group's efforts to acquire more land around the park and protect the popular area as it nears its 40th anniversary.
said the administration had about $28 million to $30 million to "play
with" after revenue projections improved. It received requests totaling
about $600 million as it put together the budget amendment, he said.