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Education Budget Comes Out of Senate Committee

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, April 12, the Alabama Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee voted to finally move the education trust fund budget (ETF) out of committee. It potentially could be vote on by the full Senate as early as today.

State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) said that the education budget is one of the largest budgets that we have ever considered and included a four percent pay raise for Alabama teachers.

The Republican nominee for the state school board Jackie Zeigler announced, “Without any new taxes, State Senate committee passes 4 percent raise for teachers and staff making under $75,000, 2 percent for over. Now bill goes to senate floor. Present revenues in education fund sufficient for this and other funding.”

This is the first raise that education employees have received since 2012 and only the second since 2008. While most education employees get four percent raises in the fiscal year 2017 budget beginning on October 1 and the highest paid principals and administrators received a two percent raise, retired education employees were not so lucky.

State Senator Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) said in a statement, “While I am pleased that we were able to provide a 4 percent pay raise for all of our public school employees, we also need to provide a bonus for all of our retirees. I believe that we can find the funding within this budget.”

The education retirees have seen their checks stay flat since 2008. The Alabama Education Retirees Association (AERA) had asked the legislators to provide a one time bonus in lieu of an actual raise that would have obligated future budget years. An amendment to that effect was introduced on the House floor; but was defeated. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee has elected not to include the bonus in their version of the budget.

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) had requested only a two percent raise, because he wanted to transfer up to $100 million from the ETF to the struggling State General Fund (SGF). The Alabama House of Representatives rejected that plan and instead did not transfer any money to the SGF preferring to fully fund transportation and books for the first time since 2008 and give the larger raises to teachers and other education employees. The House level funded the troubled Alabama Medicaid program at 2016 levels. The Bentley administration has said that that will lead to cuts in Medicaid services. The Governor vetoed the SGF budget last week, but both houses of the legislature voted to override that veto.

On Tuesday, the Alabama Senate held a lengthy session in which 21 bills were actually considered and 7 voted on before adjourning at 9:45 pm.

 

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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