NORTH MISSISSIPPI — Top managers at the Tennessee Valley Authority now make more than members of Congress, who are paid $174,000 annually.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports TVA is paying out nearly $30 million a year more for 155 of its top leaders since Congress removed salary limits at the federal utility in 2004.
Former TVA chairman Craven Crowell is critical of the reforms, saying the “legislation was never carefully thought out,” but former Director Skila Harris said the changes have helped the utility hire qualified workers.
“It would be nearly impossible for TVA to hire qualified candidates for transmission workers, plant managers, technicians and executives if its pay scale was lower than other utilities,” she said. “As for the pay cap, the only explanation I can come up with is that Congress didn’t like the idea of people being paid more than they were. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship between what a member of Congress is paid and what an executive of a utility should be paid.”
When TVA was established in 1933, salaries of employees were capped so they couldn’t make more than members of Congress.
Filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission show that the total compensation for TVA’s top executives ranged from $1.95 million for Preston Swafford, who serves as chief nuclear officer, to $3.95 for Tom Kilgore, who is the chief executive officer.
Although the amounts are much higher than members of Congress, pay consultants Towers Watson found executive compensation at TVA was still behind comparable private utilities.
TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said the agency strives “to offer competitive pay to attract and retain the best people we can.”
“TVA has to be able to attract, train and retain a workforce that is reflective of managing and operating a more diverse generation fleet,” he said.