WASHINGTON (WATE) – The Tennessee Valley Authority released a statement regarding President Trump’s remarks about the CEO Jeff Lyash’s salary during Wednesday’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

During the Wednesday Coronavirus Task Force briefing, a reporter asked a question related to a new infrastructure bill: “Members of your administration and members of Congress have pointed out that the top-paid federal employee, it’s not the president … it’s the head of the Tennessee Valley Authority and he made $8 million last year…”

President Trump responded, “It is ridiculous, I agree. It’s ridiculous. I think it’s the highest paid government…. “

The president went on to say, “You said Tennessee Valley Authority, right? Has to be the highest-paid man in any government – makes approximately $8 million or $9 million. I don’t know the gentleman, but he’s got a heck of a job. He gets paid a lot of money. He’s been there for a long while, hasn’t he?”

Lyash was named TVA’s President and CEO in April 2019.

President Trump called TVA a “quasi-public agency” and also said that part of the pending infrastructure bill involved reducing the TVA leaders’ pay “by a lot,” which he said he would support.

TVA’s Statement:

TVA’s mission of service requires that we attract and retain highly skilled individuals in a specialized industry. Although a federal corporation, TVA receives no federal funding for its operations. All funds are generated through wholesale sale of electricity.

TVA employees do not receive federal health or retirement benefits. Benchmarking other utility peers who are competing for the same talent is the only method available to create a competitive compensation system.

TVA’s CEO total compensation is in the bottom 25% of utility peers as confirmed by independent auditors and approved annually by the TVA Board of Directors.

Unlike most federal agencies, TVA complies with Securities and Exchange Commission requirements, posting detailed annual reports that include total compensation of TVA’s senior executives.

SEC regulations require TVA to note deferred compensation, such as accrued retirement, each year as part of our annual 10-K report. As a result of these factors, TVA CEO total compensation numbers compared to other federal workers do not represent an equal comparison.

At TVA, no federal taxpayer funding is involved in compensation or benefits and the full details of total compensation are not consistent.

Tennessee Valley Authority

Senator Lamar Alexander also released a statement about the president’s comments.

Sen. Alexander’s Statement:

“Attacking TVA doesn’t do one thing to solve the pandemic and has no place in federal COVID-19 response legislation. TVA is helping by making $1B in credit available to help 154 local power companies keep the power on for families who may have trouble paying their electric bills during this crisis.

TVA does not receive any federal taxpayer subsidies or federal appropriations. If necessary, we can debate at a more appropriate time the TVA CEO’s pay, which is lower than other big utilities, and TVA’s rates which are among the lowest in the country.”

Sen. Alexander
This photo provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority shows CEO Jeff Lyash. On Wednesday, April 8, 2020, President Donald Trump took a swipe at Lyash’s compensation, suggesting the executive’s pay was too high. (Courtesy of Tennessee Valley Authority via AP)