Rutherford County, TN - At a time when inflation is at a record high, is it appropriate for Tennessee county officers to receive raises up to $10,000 at the expense of the taxpayers?
This is the question that State Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) wants answered. Since so many in his district have expressed their frustration by the record high inflation thus causing the high cost of living. Being fiscally responsible and belt tightening is more important now than ever.
On March 8, Sparks attempted to introduce House Bill 346 to eliminate the mandatory compensation increase for county officers. This Pay Freeze Bill was penned by Sparks and sponsored by State Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) to halt raises for constitutional officers, trustees, mayors, county sheriffs and other high-ranking officials in fast growth counties. These raises are mandated by legislation Sparks views as wasteful.
“This bill is similar to legislation that I first introduced in 2011 as a freshman in the Tennessee General Assembly,” Sparks said. “I attempt to reintroduce this bill every year because I believe decisions should be in the hands of our County Commissioners at the local level.”
Unfortunately, just as in previous years, House Bill 346 was not heard on the House floor. Though disheartened, Sparks said he is not surprised. The situation is endemic to a larger problem that plagues politics as a whole.
“Every year, lobbyists conspire against this legislation,” Sparks said. “It’s ironic, considering that these taxpayer-funded lobbyists are working against a nonpolitical issue that would benefit taxpayers across the board.”
With the difficult financial times we are heading towards as a nation, we need more legislation like this that will save taxpayers’ money, Sparks added.
“I will always be grateful for the words of encouragement by former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell regarding this bill,” Sparks said, “Beth shared with me years ago that ‘I have the truth on my side’ regarding this issue.’ After hearing that, I knew that this bill was something that deserved attention.”
Encouraged by Harwell’s words, Sparks plans on bringing the bill up again in the 2024 House session.
He wants to encourage county commissioners across the state to pass resolutions to support future iterations of this bill and place these decisions in the hands of local county commissions.
Of course, putting the decision to offer pay raises in the hands of local government is vital as different communities have different financial resources with which to fund these pay increases. If a local community is already struggling to cover its expenses, mandating pay raises is not practical.
“Rutherford County's budget is currently in trouble,” Sparks said. “$22 million may seem like a small amount for such a big community, but in reality, it’s one of several steps we need to be taking to make sure that the county’s operations may continue. Everyone in fast growing counties like Rutherford County needs to know this.”
For further information about State Rep. Mike Sparks, visit here.
- Rep. Mike Sparks
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