Lee gives some pay raises to cabinet members

February 4, 2019
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Gov. Bill Lee answers questions from the media during a visit to Gestamp Inc., in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. This is Lee's first visit to Chattanooga as governor. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s top paid Cabinet members won’t be getting a pay bump under the Republican’s administration, but a majority of the new agency heads will see slight salary increases.

According to a list of Lee’s Cabinet and senior adviser salaries, TennCare Commissioner Gabe Roberts will be paid $300,000 a year. This makes him Lee’s highest paid Cabinet member. It’s also the same amount paid to former GOP Gov. Bill Haslam’s TennCare commissioner, a position that oversees Tennessee’s Medicaid program.

Lee’s other seven top paid Cabinet members — which include the state’s education and finance heads — will also maintain the same salary amounts set by Haslam. For example, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn will be paid a little more than $200,000 annually and Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter will be paid $201,852 annually.

The remaining 15 Cabinet members will receive $161,905 a year, where those positions were paid less under Haslam.

Previously, the lowest paid cabinet position had been $152,256 annually for the department heads of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Correction and Labor and Workforce but had also ranged as high as $159,000 annually.

This means Correction Commissioner Tony Parker, who stayed on as commissioner from Haslam’s administration, received a roughly $9,600 pay bump with Lee.

Lee’s chief of staff, Blake Harris, will make $165,000 annually, as will his chief operating officer, chief counsel and senior adviser.

The Associated Press requested the salary list shortly after the new Republican was sworn into office last month. Along with the salary list, Lee’s spokeswoman Laine Arnold attached snippets of a 2018 salary study that identified competitive commissioner salaries based on Tennessee’s budget size and agency complexity.

“With the help of a 2018 Department of Human Resources study, the Lee administration has set salaries that aid in recruiting and retaining qualified individuals to lead in the governor’s cabinet,” Arnold said in a statement.

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