By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The final day of the legislative session ended last night with the Alabama House of Representatives passing the Education Trust Fund Budget, SB 184 after it came out of a conference committee with the Alabama Senate. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) had previously vowed to veto the budget if it did not include a 2% pay raise for teachers and education support personnel.
Republican legislators repeatedly told the Republican Governor that there was no way that they could fund a teacher pay raise (with an estimated cost of $62 million) without cutting teachers or education programs.
Many Republican legislators off the record said that the Governor was making an issue of this during an election year so that he could claim he wanted to give the teachers their cost of living adjustment, but the legislature had vetoed him.
The House never gave the Governor that chance, waiting until the last moments of the session to even pass the education trust fund budget so there was no time for him to receive it to veto it and send it back to the legislature for them to have to go through the whole formality of overriding his veto.
Rep. Mack Butler said on Facebook, “The Education Trust Fund has 135 million new dollars. We are putting 65 million of those new dollars into Peehip. After putting the rest into other current expenses, transportation, textbooks, hiring new teachers etc. then the rest is gone quickly. It has passed.”
Without the additional funding for the health insurance, teachers would have had to pay higher health insurance premiums and likely would have faced high copays and deductibles when they used their health insurance. Republicans have been highly critical of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly referred to as Obamacare, for the excessive demands it has placed on doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies which has greatly driven up the costs of insurance on employers.
If Governor Bentley fulfills his vow and vetoes the ETF he will have to call a special session of the legislature…..and likely the ETF that passes out of that costly special session will still not include a teacher’s pay raise.
The AEA had been asking for a 6% pay raise for teachers and education support personnel (school bus drivers, teacher aides, librarians, nurses, school secretaries, janitors, cafeteria workers, etc.).
House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) from Gadsden introduced a budget with a 4% raise. Gov. Bentley submitted a budget with a 2% raise. The version of the bill that was first produced by the Senate had a 1% raise. Only one budget in this quadrennium has included a teacher cost of living adjustment of 2%.
Teachers have actually seen their take home pay decline over the last four years as they are now contributing more for their retirements due to the economic circumstances and inadequate investment performance by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA).
Rep. Ford said in a statement, “It is disheartening that, once again, the Republican Supermajority in Montgomery failed to pass a pay reinstatement for our educators and retirees. It is a shame, after all we ask of our educators, that the leadership in Montgomery would not make a pay raise for our educators their top priority in this budget!”
SB 267 passed, which is the bonus for the 40,000 retired state employees. They will get a bonus of $400 in the 2015 fiscal year which begins on October 1.