Working as a Cabinet member for new Gov. Bill Lee has its perks – 15 of the department heads are getting raises, the Associated Press reports.
— Kimberlee Kruesi (@kkruesi) February 4, 2019
It may be some slight consolation that the top eight paid Cabinet members are not getting a salary bump. Gabe Roberts, the TennCare commissioner, is at the top of the list at $300,000 per year, where he will stay. Other top paid officials include the education and finance heads, the AP said. The story is here.
However, the other 15 Cabinet members will be paid $161,905 annually, an increase from the administration of former Gov. Bill Haslam.
Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill questioned the size of the Cabinet members’ pay raises.
“It appears that many of Governor Lee’s political appointees are receiving the biggest paychecks they have ever received in their lives, plus significant benefits that most taxpayers are not provided,” Gill said. “Hopefully they will all prove themselves to be worth it, but the big salaries these officials are collecting, and the large ones to their immediate subordinates, raise legitimate questions about whether Lee’s team is devoted to public service or self service.”
A list of Cabinet members is here on the governor’s website.
Lee has drawn criticism from some conservatives for his selection of largely Democrats and moderate Republicans, including holdovers from the Haslam administration, to serve in his Cabinet, especially in the most powerful of positions.
In a January letter to Lee, before he took office, Dale Walker, president of the conservative Tennessee Pastors Network, expressed “concerns” about recent appointees to the Lee Administration, The Tennessee Star previously reported.
The letter notes that Walker “requested a meeting with the Governor-elect weeks ago and was informed he didn’t have time to meet with concerned Pastors. Apparently, Bill Lee has been so busy meeting with these liberals he couldn’t meet with conservative Bible-Believing Pastors that stood for electing what we thought was a conservative Governor.”
Walker says that there are many qualified Tennessee conservatives that Bill Lee could have appointed to top positions in his Administration that have been intentionally overlooked in order to promote the liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans he has named instead.
Gill appeared on Fox 17 News’ In Focus program on Dec. 30 and spoke about the appointment of former State Rep. Courtney Rogers to head the Department of Veterans Services. He pointed out that she was the first true conservative Cabinet pick but her position is not “particularly powerful.” More about his comments are available here.
More critiquing of Lee’s Cabinet picks is available here. They include David Gerregano, who served as Haslam’s Commissioner of Revenue the past two years and helped shepherd the Haslam tax increase (including adding $300 million per year in higher gas taxes) through the Legislature. He will continue to serve in that capacity for Lee.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.