Haslam Blasé about State Workers on Food Stamps

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Gov. Bill Haslam was asked today to comment on the fact that nearly 1,000 state employees are on food stamps, and he didn't seem especially concerned. Talking to reporters, he offered no response to Tennessee State Employee Association demands that he do something about this embarrassment.

"What is the situation?" Haslam asked instead. "Are they an entry level employee with four or five children? That can impact the formula for food stamps. You really have to break it down."

But then the governor didn't indicate that he had any plans to break it down. Instead of why the state isn't offering a living wage to all its workers, Haslam seemed more worried about the private sector luring away the state's professionals with higher pay.

"Ultimately we have to be competitive with the market," said Haslam who gave whopping pay raises to some of his Cabinet when he took office. "Right now the economy is slow. So maybe you’re an engineer at TDOT or you’re an accountant at with F&A or whoever. And right now the market might be slow and there might not be a lot of demand for your services, but when the economy does come back, we’re going to feel that pressure."

Haslam said he'd like to do a study of whether state pay is competitive in the marketplace.

"Right now," the governor said, "we have the luxury of a fairly noncompetitive market for labor just because of the economy. But that’s going to change sometime and if all of a sudden we say, ‘Gosh, you’re not going to able to hire engineers at TDOT in a strong economy for that pay’ or whatever. Then we need to know that and not be caught unawares."

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