By: Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
Governor Robert Bentley has announced that he has signed the Education Trust Fund Budget that was approved by the Alabama legislature on Sine Die, the last day of this year’s Regular Session. That version of the budget does not include the teacher pay raise that Bentley originally proposed in his budget, which the Governor still says is financially doable.
He had been considering a pocket veto of the budget over the exclusion of a two percent pay raise for Alabama’s teachers.
During his announcement, the Governor also pointed out that several pieces of “good legislation” were not passed because the legislature adjourned “too early.” These included the pay raise as well as a bill enforcing the implementation of a payday loan database that had already been provided for by law.
On the latter issue, Bentley said they will move forward with the database without the bill, and will “take our chances in court.” Payday lenders had previously sued when the Governor tried to move forward with the database.
Despite today’s announcement, Governor Bentley has said that a special session over a two percent pay raise for teachers is not off the table, though it is “for the present time.”
Governor Bentley also specifically named Senators Ward, Dial, and Holley as having been central to getting what he did as far as state employee health care (PEEHIP) funding is concerned. These Senators, the Governor said, agreed that the legislature’s PEEHIP numbers were inaccurate and that the program should be further funded.
While some legislators have criticized the Governor over continuing to push for the teacher pay raise because of a deal that was agreed to by all parties, Bentley maintains his stance that the agreement involved only PEEHIP funding, and not the two percent pay raise.
Bentley said that every month he will meet with his finance director and reevaluate the possibility of a special session over the teacher pay raise.
“We probably will not know [enough] until late into the summer, maybe the fall… Maybe right before the election,” the Governor said.