Important questions you need to ask about the salaries of elected officials before voting in the local May 1st and state and federal August 2nd 2018 primary elections

State mandated minimum salaries and additional pay supplements for local elected officials vs what taxpayers are making

When you look at important economic indicators such as median household income and average annual income, Blount County taxpayers haven’t fared well in recent years.  When adjusted for inflation, 2014 numbers show that average pay in Blount County actually dropped and that household income averages a double digit drop.

The State of Tennessee mandates very generous salaries for elected officials that are 2, 3 and 4 times what the average Tennessee taxpayer is making.  I (Tona Monroe) have written the state legislature for a couple of years on this matter but this matter has largely fallen on deaf ears when it comes to taking action.  A few lawmakers have agreed with me that the mandated minimums are too high but none have taken action to provide reform.

You can view the state mandated minimum salaries for local elected officials here.
2018-2019  2017-2018   2016-2017  2015-2016  2014-2015  2013-2014
2012-2013   2010-2011  2009-2010  2008-2009  2007-2008  2006-2007

This figures show huge increases to the base pay for local elected officials being mandated by state law.  Despite being paid double and triple, and in the case of judges almost quadruple what the average taxpayer is making, 4 of these local elected officials are receiving pay supplements above the already large state mandated minimums.  Blount County taxpayers are paying $96,717 more than state minimum for the circuit court clerk, highway superintendent, sheriff and mayor.  It’s obvious these people don’t feel the same economic pain that many Blount Countians are feeling.

2 important primary elections will be held this year.  The local government primary election will be May 1, 2018 and the state and federal primary election will be held August 2, 2018.  All office holders elected in partisan elections are Republicans in Blount County.  There isn’t a single Democrat or independent in office in Blount County, excluding the school board which has nonpartisan elections.  Thus, it is highly likely that all upcoming offices, excluding the school board, will be decided in the primary elections.  If you wait to vote in November, you will miss your best opportunities to have an impact on who governs at the local and state levels.  There will be no county elections in November and only state and federal general elections occur in November.

The May 1 and August 2 primary elections provide opportunities for you to clean house of these state and local officials who refuse to hold the line on these outrageous salaries.  Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and myself have voted to cut the pay of these 4 elected officials down to the state minimum, which is already much higher than it should be.

Questions to ask before heading to the polls on May 1 and August 2:
1) Why have local elected officials refused to cut the pay of these officials to the state mandated minimums?
2) Why have the state legislators continued funding huge increases for elected officials?
3) Why did Jerome Moon try to lead the commission to believe that these pay supplements weren’t optional?

Please consider these questions before casting your votes in the May 1 and August 2 elections.

East Tennessee Index 2014 figures for median household income:

What does this measure?
Median household income, adjusted for inflation. Half of households earn below the median, and half are above.

Why is this important?
Median household income is a gauge of overall economic health of the region and the financial resources of households.

How is our region performing?
In 2010-14, median household income in the region was $45,100, slightly higher than the state ($44,600) but lower than the nation ($53,500). Among local counties, median household income was highest in Loudon ($50,600) and Knox ($47,500) and lowest in Union ($36,000) and Monroe ($37,200). The region, state, and nation all saw their median income fall by double digits from 2000 to 2010-14 (down 12% in the region, 14% in the state, and 10% in the nation). Median income fell much faster in the region from 2005-09 to 2010-14 than in the nation and state (16% decrease in the region compared to a 6% decrease for the state and the nation). Among the counties, median household incomes decreased most from 2000 to 2010-14 in Sevier, Monroe and Blount (all 14%). Union experienced the smallest rate of decline (7%), but still has the lowest median household income in the region.

Notes about the data
Figures are presented in 2014 dollars. The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The bureau combined five years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census. 2014 figures for average annual salary:

What does this measure?
The average annual salary in a region in a given year, adjusted for inflation.

Why is this important?
Salaries are a gauge of overall economic health and a measure of the degree to which employees are sharing in the prosperity of a community. They also indicate the vitality of a region and its ability to compete and attract workers.

How is our region performing?
In 2014, the region’s average salary was $43,000, below the average for the state ($45,200) and the nation ($51,400). Since 2000, the region’s average salary increased by 6%, on par with growth nationally and but below statewide (7%). Roane County’s average annual pay grew by 26% over the same time period, more than any other county, while average salary fell in Blount and Sevier counties over that period (both less than 1% respectively). Between 2013 and 2014, the region’s average annual salary increased by 1%, on par with the state increase.

Notes about the data
Data presented in 2014 dollars.

Speaking Freely with Tona Monroe

Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe was a guest speaker on Speaking Freely on 92.3 FM this evening.  She discussed her recent nomination of Scott Williams to replace Doug Overbey in the state senate, her political philosophy, the secrecy in purchasing that occurred with a state law passed last year and scamera and speeding tickets.

Nathan Keeble, Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, Joshua Eakle and Sherry “Voluntary” Clark

State prison inmate cost is $76 a day while TN pays counties $37 a day

According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, the average daily cost to house an inmate in state prison is $76 a day.  That is more than twice what the state pays counties to house state felons.  The state currently pays counties a daily per diem of $37.  It’s no wonder that the state is content with letting their felons be housed in local jails.  It makes their costs lower, their books look better and it frees up more money to spend elsewhere.

But don’t worry the state is here to help local governments out by increasing the daily per diem rate for housing state felons in local jails to $39 a day.  That’s a whopping $2 daily increase.  Never mind that, at $39 a day, the state still averages saving $37 a day.*  State lawmakers and officials need to be able brag about being good stewards of taxpayer money by keeping the state budget lower and having a $2 billion surplus of your money.

Some good news: statewide recidivism was down in 2016.


*The cost savings to the state may be less in counties with a contract for state sentenced felons.

Gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases for 400 jobs?

Gas tax and vehicle registration fee increase for 400 jobs?

Another secret crony deal.

When will the rule of law be applied equally to all businesses rather than tax breaks and incentives for the special few?


Rep. Art Swann received $1,000 donation from James Haslam & voted for gas tax increase

Republican state Representative Art Swann, one of two reps. from Blount County, received a $1,000 donation from James Haslam of Pilot Oil during the 2016 election, even though Swann had no opponent.  Rep. Art Swann voted to raise the gas tax and increase vehicle registration fees.

James Haslam is a relative of oil baron, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

Read more on state lawmakers regarding their votes on the gas tax & registration fee increases and donations from the Haslam family and JOBS4TN PAC, which is mostly funded by Bill Haslam, here:

P.O. BOX 10146
Primary 08/03/2016 $1,000.00 $1,000.00

Info on TCSA funding and support for IMPROVE act

Last week I wrote about the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) sending a newsletter telling local elected officials to call their legislators in support of the IMPROVE act.  This legislation increases the gas tax and raises the non-commercial vehicle registration fee $5 annually.

This organization is funded by you, the taxpayers.  Here is a copy of the meeting minutes for the meeting that the TCSA voted to support the IMPROVE act.  The TCSA website says the board endorsed the legislation.  Since the meeting minutes don’t give a roll call vote of the TCSA Board, I asked if any voted against supporting the legislation that will soon be law.  Executive Director David Connor wrote, “The board vote was a voice vote. No members voted against supporting the measure and no one asked to be recorded as a no.”  The minutes contain a listing of the members that were present and absent from the meeting.

Blount County paid $3,875 in dues to the TCSA.  The TCSA annual budget is available here.

Do you think your tax money should be spent to fund an association that supports/endorses raises taxes and fees on you?

Weekly Report from TN Co. Commissioners Association April 20, 2017



I am attaching1 of 3 reports and they are described below. I will be sending the other two reports in another email. The governor’s approve (should be IMPROVE) act passed Wednesday and it will insure additional transportation funding for the state and local governments.

Report “A” Shows

·       1 bill we are watching on the house floor Monday, 4/24/17 and 2 on the Senate floor the same day.

·       20 active bills next week and of those bills 3 are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA

·        13 bills that have been placed behind the budget and are depending on funding by the governor’s final proposal. Of the 13 bills behind the budged 4 are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       11 bills assigned to Calendar and Rules that have not been put on notice and 3 of those bills are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       6 bills in the House budget sub-committee waiting on a special calendar and of those bills 1 is strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       57 bills that have been placed in the Senate general sub-committee and of those bills 2 are strongly supported and 4 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·        35 bills are off notice and of those 4 are strongly supported and 1 is strongly opposed by TCCA.

Report “B” Shows

·       11 bills that have been deferred until 2018 and of those none are strongly supported or strongly opposed by TCCA

·       5 bills recommended for summer study and of those 1 is strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA

·       77 bills have passed and of those 9 were strongly supported and 2 were strongly opposed by TCCA. Of the 77 bills 26 have already been signed by the governor and assigned public chapter numbers.

·       12 bill have failed and of those 2 were strongly opposed by TCCA

·       8 bills have been withdrawn and none of them were strongly supported or strongly opposed by TCCA

Report “C” Shows

·       144 bills have not been put on notice by their sponsor and of those 10 are strongly supported and 5 are strongly opposed by TCCA



4-20-17 Report A
4-20-17 Report B
4-20-17 Report C

Tennessee County Services Association tells local elected officials to support gas tax increase

The Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) sends local elected officials a newsletter, called Capitol Update, while the Tennessee General Assembly is in session.  The TCSA failed to mention the purchasing secrecy legislation in the six issues that it sent to me in 2016.  When I asked TCSA Executive Director David Connor why he didn’t include bills that made an open process a secret government process he wrote, “Since it was mirroring the process used at the state, I didn’t see a problem with it.”  Two wrongs apparently make a right.

This year the TCSA has sent newsletter with a headline telling local officials to call their state lawmakers and tell them to support the gas tax increase included in the slyly named IMPROVE act.  TCSA seem more interested in telling local officials what to do rather than keeping them informed of legislation that creates local government secrecy.  Is the tail wagging the dog?

County Technical Assistance Service gets $28,250 per month from counties’ share of gas tax

University of Tennessee, County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) gets $28,250 a month from the gas tax.  See page 9 of this Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasure report.

For more on the assistance and service provided by CTAS, read the March 2017 Commission Report.

Should this money be diverted from the roads?

And you thought they were elected to represent you…

by Horatio Bunce

Silly peasant taxpayers….don’t you know that party comes before principles? Especially when your precious party has a super-duper majority. It would really be embarrassing if your party didn’t “win”.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams of Cookeville with his finger in the wind regarding Haslam’s Gasolinazo:

Williams did not announce the results of the straw poll, and said that the goal is to make sure members don’t have a (sic) to make a politically difficult vote on a bill that might not pass.

“If we know that the bill is having trouble, it’s my job as the caucus chair to make sure you don’t vote on something that will fail,” he said. (bolded for emphasis)

Guest column: Bills smack of cronyism

This legislation has passed the Tennessee Senate.  However, it was amended to something that could be worse.  The amendment appears to make any contract or agreement secret until a vote by the local legislative body.  This goes far beyond secret, crony development “deals.”  It remains to be seen what happens in the state House.  This is a bureaucrats dream come true but making all this secret could be dangerous to the taxpaying citizens.