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TVA top managers make more than members of Congress

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.


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About Megan Wright


  1. Absurd, absolutely absurd. There are only so many of these type positions so if the top dog were only paid a fixed amount, reasonable amount, those in lesser paying companies or organizations would find willing takers for their openings.

    There’s a point everything must stop escalating and return to sensible. Too many are unemployed or under employed for persons in these type positions to receive such bloated amounts, especially when the argument is they must pay that much to compete. Have all companies drop the bloated figures.

  2. The differences are obvious. On the one hand you have someone managing a nuclear industry that could potentially obliterate the entire southeast, were there to be an accident, and on the other hand you have someone whose sole interest seems to be getting elected next term. Who do you think deserves the big bucks?

    The question of disparity in pay between workers and managers is certainly a valid one, but it is a debate that needs to be had on a national basis, not on the differences in pay between TVA managers and members of Congress.

  3. Delores Walker

    What’s absurd is that congress not only gets their annual salary, their expense accounts are as much if not more than their salary, not to mention all the traveling they do and the entertaining they do. All on the taxpayers dime. I have no affilation with TVA, sorry to say, what I am more sorry to say is that I am unemployed and definately not by choice. I am most certain TVA employees clock alot more hours than congress, their expense accounts are no where near as much and they are not “entertaining” on the taxpayers dime. If congress earned the money they were getting paid, maybe more people would have jobs, maybe fuel prices would go down so people could afford to make trips at their own expense not to mention be able to afford to drive back and forth to work. Maybe they could do something about foreign trade and bring companies back to the United States. Just maybe if there were more companies in the U.S. there would be more competion for these positions with the bloated salaries. If your are a receipent of TVA services you should ask yourself. Self–am I getting the quality of service that is comparable to the amount I am paying? Self–are TVA charges comparable to other Utility organizations? Self–if TVA senior management were only getting half of that salary, would they care as much about making sure you have power? would they care as much about upgrading equipment and exploring new possibilities to ensure you the customer are getting the biggest bang for their buck? KUDOS TVA!!!!!!!!

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