The highest-paid US federal official earned $8.16 million last
year, and he may be in line for a big pay cut as populist
outrage shapes a new infrastructure package intended to put
people back to work after the coronavirus outbreak.
Thereâ€™s a bipartisan drive to cut compensation for Jeff Lyash,
president of the Tennessee Valley Authority, as the White House
and House Democrats begin talks on up to $2 trillion in
infrastructure spending to offset a spike in joblessness.
The TVA is a federally owned electricity provider that controls
dozens of dams built during the Great Depression as a jobs
program. It also owns three nuclear power plants. But the
vintage infrastructure project now pays many execs well over the
US presidential salary of $400,000 and is in the process of
outsourcing hundreds of jobs to India.
â€śAt a time when people are hurting, business leaders and even
the president of the United States are forgoing salaries to help
those in need, but not the TVA president,â€ť a senior Trump
administration official told The Post.
â€śItâ€™s outrageous the American taxpayer is footing the $8 million-
plus salary in good times, let alone at a time of national
emergency,â€ť the official said.
The TVAâ€™s budget technically is not taxpayer-funded â€” instead
using electricity revenue from Tennessee and neighboring states
â€” but its debt of up to $30 billion is federally owned, as are
its assets. Many conservatives want to privatize the TVA, an
idea also pushed by the Obama White House, but resisted by many
lawmakers from the area.
But Trump administration officials and House Democrats are
agreeing that at a minimum, executive pay should be reduced.
Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, a member of the House
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the
compensation is â€śout of line for a public agencyâ€ť and that the
time is right to act.
â€śMany [TVA executives] make over a million dollars running an
agency set up to render energy and aid to a poor region in our
country that still suffers economically in many areas,â€ť Cohen
told The Post.
â€śThis makes the out-of-line salaries even more distasteful. This
has been wrong for decades and those salaries should be
considerably reduced, particularly at this time. But even if we
werenâ€™t in the midst of a great health and economic crisis, the
salaries are way too high and should be reduced greatly.â€ť
Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week agreed
in principle that they both wanted a large infrastructure
package to boost the economy. Talks are just beginning, however,
The push to reduce pay for Lyash and other TVA executives comes
as a labor union representing TVA workers fights plans to export
220 IT and engineering jobs to India. Ironically, union
officials point out the TVA was created to battle domestic
joblessness, but now may contribute to it.
â€śCongress is desperately searching for ways to save jobs,
prevent a recession or depression and to keep paychecks coming
during a time of crisis, meanwhile a federal entity is sending
pink slips to Americans and providing paychecks to foreign
nationals,â€ť said International Federation of Professional and
Technical Engineers president Paul Shearon. â€śDoes this make any
sense? Doesnâ€™t this violate not only the needs of our economy
now, and also violate TVAâ€™s long-stated mission?â€ť
Itâ€™s unclear if Trump personally is involved with efforts to
reduce executive pay at the TVA, or if heâ€™s planning to halt the
planned outsourcing. Trump routinely rails against private firms
exporting jobs and firing Americans.
Union officials say that with potential information about
nuclear energy involved, there may be national security
implications for outsourcing jobs.
TVA spokesman Jim Hopson defended the high executive pay in a
statement to The Post.
â€śTVAâ€™s CEO total compensation is approximately 25% of the
compensation of CEOs of comparable utilities,â€ť Hopson said. â€śWe
do appreciate the support of the congressional delegation that
represents the seven states TVA serves in the Tennessee Valley.â€ť
For 2020, Lyashâ€™s base salary is $1.058 million, with $3.36
million in performance and retention grants. His 2019
compensation of $8.16 million included $5.97 million in future
pension pay and a $380,000 signing bonus after leaving a job in
Canada in April.
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