By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Democratic members of the Alabama House of Representatives had planned to introduce several amendments to the House Education Trust Fund Budget. They even offered to substitute the House GOP Caucus budget, with the budget that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) had sent to the legislature. Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn and the House Republican leadership knew this and were prepared.
House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) from Gadsden said in a written statement, “The Republicans refused to allow amendments to be brought up. They did everything they could to avoid having to vote on an amendment from House
Democrats to give educators a pay raise. That is not leadership. That is cowardice!”
Speaker Mike Hubbard said on Facebook, “The status quo doesn’t like change. The special interests don’t like to lose power. But I’m not willing to back down.”
Representative Christopher John England (D) from Tuscaloosa said on Facebook, “Seriously thought about this my entire drive home. Let’s clear something up. There was no “debate” of the Education Trust Fund today. Republicans basically talked about it for a couple of hours. Then, I guess they got tired of hearing themselves talk so they clotured and shut themselves up. Afterwards, some of the same Republicans voted against the budget. I suspect they voted cloture before Democrats could offer an amendment to give a two percent pay raise to teachers. Who wants to go on record voting against a pay raise for teachers during an election year, right?”
Rep, Ford said, “The Republicans found a million dollars to study ‘weed’ at UAB but they couldn’t find the money to pay for paper towels and Kleenexes in the classroom. They found $2.25 million for an unnecessary liability insurance program but they couldn’t find the money to give our educators and retirees a basic cost-of-living pay raise. This budget actually cuts educators’ pay by $500 every year! We have asked our educators to do more with less and for less money. But instead of giving educators a pay raise, this budget cuts their pay. This budget shows that our educators are not a priority for the Republicans in the Alabama legislature.”
Rep. England wrote, “After the Republican Supermajority voted to invoke cloture, the House just passed the Education Trust Fund budget by a vote of 51-47 with two abstentions. Now, there are three different versions of the budget. The Governor’s budget fully funded PEEHIP and gave teachers a 2% increase. The Senate version did not fully fund PEEHIP but gave teachers a 1% bonus. The House version does not give an increase at all but attempts to fully fund PEEHIP. If the Senate does not accept the changes the House made, then the budget will go to a conference committee. After a final version of the bill comes out of the conference committee, if that becomes necessary, it will go to the Governor. At that point, the Governor has the option of either signing the budget bill or vetoing it. Bottom line, since I personally believe that the priorities are wrong, I voted against it. Terrible, terrible budget.”
Rep. Mack Butler (R) from Rainbow City said on Facebook, “Here is a brief synopsis of the budget. Total of 5.9 billion. Total funds to peehip with fed match 48 million. PEEHIP has over 1 billion in reserves. 75 million increase is due to Obamacare. Increases going into the classroom. Hiring more than 400 new teachers by increasing the divisors by 1%. Increasing 5.7 million for textbooks. Funding other current expense (oce) 14.7 million. This will allow local boards the ability to decide the use of these funds. 8.7 million in increased funding for transportation. 605k increase in funding for classroom supplies. Pre K will receive 10 million in additional funding. To ensure that Alabama high school graduates are prepared for a college or career the career technical dual enrollment program will receive an additional 6 million.”
Speaker Hubbard said that this was a, “…commonsense, fiscally conservative budget…This legislation protects teachers from massive premium increases caused by Obamacare and increases funding for schools, the hiring of 400 new teachers, and for our nationally recognized Pre-K program.”
The State has struggled with slow growth in revenues following the disaster that was the 2008-2009 Great Recession. Low wage and job growth and an underperforming real estate market has led to slow increases in tax revenues making it difficult if not impossible for budgets to include such things as Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLAs) for teachers and State employees.