“It’s The Role Of This Committee To Get to the Bottom Of a $4 MILLION SLUSH FUND” Rep. Mike Stewart and Rep. Bo Mitchell call on Rep. Martin Daniel to investigate mysterious MONEY Gov. Lee may have used to get public school-harming vouchers passed. Even speaker Cameron Sexton calls it “troubling”.
Watch TN Dems Rep. Bo Mitchell & Rep. Mike Stewart call on Gov. Lee and the TN GOP to stop hoarding hundreds of millions in TANF funds intended for poor people’s child care, food, job training.
Between not expanding Medicaid, hoarding TANF funds, and not spending hundreds of millions in federal day care funds, Lee & The TN GOP have kept $8 BILLION from getting to Tennessee’s neediest.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” one school social worker told us when she heard this.
From the Democratic Caucus:
Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart today asked “where did all the money go?” Stewart demanded a full accounting into the financial dealings of outgoing Speaker Glen Casada’s Republican leadership team.
“All of these reports of no-show jobs, five figure raises for former interns and multi-million dollar expenditure increases need to be fully examined before we go into special session and vote on a new Speaker. The Republicans cannot be permitted to use the Special Session to sweep these issues under the rug and hide the truth from the citizens who were forced to foot the bill for all this nonsense.”
Representative Gloria Johnson added:
“The reports we have read about misspent money are deeply offensive to the citizens of my district; these taxpayers are entitled to know what happened to every cent of their hard-earned tax dollars.”
Stewart called on a three-pronged approach to determine how funds were misspent, misallocated and/or misused during the Speaker’s administration:
- A full financial audit by the comptroller’s office into spending on purchases, salaries and allocations made by the Speaker’s office since Casada’s election.
- The appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the no-show jobs held by employees of the Speaker’s office.
- An open records release of all financial records, receipts, timesheets and other documents for full public review.
Chairman Stewart urged that all requests need to be completed before the called special session August 23rd, saying:
“Otherwise, we risk the possibility that the Republicans will just put one of Casada’s cronies in as Speaker in an effort to sweep evidence of financial malfeasance under the rug. If that happens, the taxpayers will never really know the full cost of the Casada Gravy Train and those that got the money will never be held accountable.”
Speaking of no-show jobs, the Holler has been told Michael Lotfi, who was on the receiving end of one of Casada’s no-show jobs and was attacked child sex abuse survivors while on the payroll, is still handling social media for Tennessee House Republicans.
Yesterday the Tennessean put out a scathing report of the skyrocketing cost of running the Tennessee State House under Speaker Glen Casada, who fancies himself a “fiscal conservative” but clearly does not walk the walk.
From the Tennessean:
“Since House Speaker Glen Casada became the chamber’s leader, the size and cost of running the Tennessee General Assembly is increasing, forcing the lower chamber’s leader to ask the governor for an additional $7 million.”
The report from Joel Ebert points to staff fees like the $130,000 raise (!) he gave his Chief of Staff Cade Cothren, an outrageous number by any stretch of the imagination.
Cothren now makes just shy of $200,000 to run the Speaker’s office. As a reminder, the legislature is in session for approximately one-third of the year each year.
From Ebert’s report:
“Cothren earns $199,800 a year. Last year, when Casada was the House majority leader, Cothren made $68,400 as an executive assistant and policy researcher… 31-year-old Cothren is the third-highest paid legislative employee, behind Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey and Rick Nicholson, McNally’s chief of staff… Cothren has worked for state government since 2013. Nicholson and Humphrey first started working for the state in 1995 and 1998, respectively… Cothren makes more money than Lee’s chief of staff and all but three commissioners in the governor’s 23-member Cabinet… And his salary is significantly higher than the last three House chiefs of staff.”
(Cothren was last seen lying to the face of a protester of the bust of the first KKK Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest about misspelled emails.)
Regarding the office of the Speaker, the article goes on:
“It costs more than $5.1 million to pay for the salaries of employees in those offices, the analysis found. At this time last year, salaries for those same House offices cost taxpayers about $3.8 million.
If you have an issue with this, holler at Casada HERE.
In the meantime, here are some reactions from Tennesseans from both parties across the state… Despite Majority Leader William Lamberth playing the good soldier and calling the increased size and cost of operations in the House “extremely conservative” (apparently forgetting what words mean) the reaction to the article on both sides of the aisle has been one of shock and disgust:
Rep. Mike Stewart, the House Democratic caucus chairman, had this to say:
“It sounds like fiscal conservatism means about as much with Tennessee Republicans as it does with the Republicans up in Washington.”
Madison County Commissioner, District 9 – Republican Jay Bush:
There’s nothing conservative about this. One Casada staffer got a $131,000 taxpayer funded pay raise. This kid is making more than a U.S. Congressman, a Tennessee Supreme Court Justice and all but three members of Governor Lee’s Cabinet for what ought to be a part time job. https://t.co/Gb5Hf9zkpw
— Jay Bush (@tn_bush) March 7, 2019
Democratic State Senator Jeff Yarbro:
This. Is. Disgusting. https://t.co/4lz1sOtTMc
— Jeff Yarbro (@yarbro) March 7, 2019
Democratic State Rep. Gloria Johnson (who says she still hasn’t received a $3 key to her office!):
But Ed Committee said we could not afford to serve school lunches to those who can’t pay. Yet we got a $7 million increase for legislative staff salaries. #NotMyValues
— Gloria Johnson (@VoteGloriaJ) March 7, 2019
Longtime political operative Holly Mccall (who contributes to the Holler):
— Holly McCall (@jhollymc) March 7, 2019
Williamson County Tweeter @StormResist:
Republicans used to be the party of small government.
Now they are the party of big payoffs.
I wonder if Casada will explain this $1.3 million increase into GOP personal bank accounts?
— Storm 🕊 (@StormResist) March 6, 2019
Former State House Candidate Allan Creasy:
Who else is exhausted of “Fiscally Conservative” Republicans wasting our State Tax Dollars?🙋♂️ https://t.co/Tm56UeDPIz
— Allan Creasy (@ServeThe901) March 6, 2019
From John Harris, who manages Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc.:
Cade Cothren must be spectacular. Tell us more! https://t.co/kWvlO8gX03
— Susan B. Steen (@suezquesteen) March 7, 2019
Andy Spears owns the public policy consulting firm Spears Strategy which provides policy and advocacy consulting to school systems, non-profits, and parent groups. Spears holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration with an emphasis in education policy. Over the past 15 years, he has worked in public policy roles in state and local government in Kentucky and Tennessee. Follow @TheAndySpears for his take on politics and policy and subscribe to the TN ED REPORT HERE.
Tonight, Governor Bill Lee outlined his proposed budget for 2019-2020. Lee’s budget doubles the fund for charter school facilities to $12 million. This amounts to a benefit of $342 per student (there are roughly 35,000 Tennessee students in charter schools).
Meanwhile, he announced a meager improvement to teacher salaries of around 2% – $71 million. This amounts to $71 per student.
So, charter schools — which serve only 3.5% of the state’s students — will see a 100% increase in available facility funding from the state while teachers will see only a 2% increase in pay.
If the two investments were equal and funded at the rate granted to charter schools, there would be a $342 million investment in teacher salaries. That’s roughly a 10% raise. A raise that’s desperately needed as Tennessee leads the nation in percentage of teachers with little to no classroom experience. We also have one of the largest teacher wage gaps in the Southeast.
As one Nashville teacher pointed out, Nashville – and the entire state — have a failed business plan:
I’m starting a business and looking for workers. The work is intense, so the workers should be highly skilled. Experience preferred. Starting salary is 40k with the opportunity to get all the way to 65k after 25 years of staying in the same position. See how dumb that sounds?
Now, those are numbers for Nashville. Some teachers around the state have to teach for 10 years before they even hit $40,000. Still, the point is clear: The value proposition for teachers in our state is not very good. Unfortunately, Governor Lee’s first budget is not doing much to change that. It’s the status quo. A nominal increase that will likely not entirely make it into teacher paychecks.
The bottom line: Money matters.