- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - President Donald Trump took a swipe at the compensation of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s president during his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday, suggesting the executive’s pay was too high.

In response to a reporter’s question, who said the head of TVA “made $8 million last year,” Trump said it is “ridiculous, I agree. It’s ridiculous.”

Trump, who as president appoints the TVA board, suggested he could reduce the TVA president’s salary as part of a coronavirus-related infrastructure bill being considered by Congress. The quasi-federal utility that serves 10 million ratepayers hired president and CEO Jeff Lyash in November.

“Reducing it by a lot,” Trump said, never mentioning Lyash by name. “That’d be the greatest job in the history of government almost, certainly if you’re into money…”

Trump got pushback on the comments from a member of his own party, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who noted that TVA doesn’t receive federal taxpayer subsidies or federal appropriations.

“Attacking TVA doesn’t do one thing to solve the pandemic and has no place in federal COVID-19 response legislation,” Alexander said in a release.

The TVA, created during the New Deal, is the nation’s largest government-owned electric power supplier, serving seven southern states. All of its revenues come from electricity sales.

Lyash received a compensation package upon his hiring in November that included millions to relocate, and a base salary of nearly $1 million. The total package amounts to about $8 million and includes deferred compensation, but Lyash must stay in the job three to five years, according to a report last year from the Times Free Press in Chattanooga.

TVA spokesman Scott Gureck said Wednesday night that the TVA’s CEO compensation is in the bottom 25% of utility peers and TVA must also post detailed annual reports that include total compensation and deferred compensation. He said TVA must pay salaries comparable to other utilities “who are competing for the same talent.”

“TVA CEO total compensation numbers compared to other federal workers do not represent an equal comparison,” Gureck said in a release.

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