Amid a growing economic collapse due to the forced economic shutdown to deal with the coronavirus crisis, the Alabama House of Representatives met to pass the state’s Education Trust Fund budget Thursday.
State Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, addressed the fear that the economic crisis could negatively impact Alabama’s schools.
“We are not going to be in proration,” Rich explained, crediting the 2011 Rolling Reserve Act.
“First of all, I want to say thank you to Rep. Bill Poole. He has done an excellent job as Chairman of the Education Budget Committee,” Rich said. “We are not going to be in proration this year and we are also confident that we will not be in proration next year. We have not been in proration in any year since 2011.”
“We are not going to have any cuts in state teacher units in either this fiscal year or the following fiscal year,” Rich continued. “I want to thank Rep. Greg Canfield, who is now the Secretary of Commerce. He was the sponsor of that (the Rolling Reserve Act). That was his idea.”
Rich said that all of the education lobbyists at the time were opposed to the Rolling Reserve Act and they threatened members jobs over it. Now they are thankful that we have that in place.
“I just want to thank the conservative budgeting by this legislature and the members of this body,” Rich added. “I want to thank you and the job that you have done.”
Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said, “The budget we started with was a $400 million budget increase over last year. This one is $90 million.”
The largest portion of the cut in the increase was the scrapping of a plan for an education pay raise. Due to the downturn in the economy, education employees will receive no pay raise and education retirees will receive no bonus check.
“Our financial situation was designed to withstand a situation like we are experienced,” Garrett explained. We are in the upper echelon of states in fiscal security, as shown by Moody’s.
“We have a balance in excess of $300 million in our budget stabilization fund,” Chairman Bill Poole, R-Trussville, said. “We are only going to appropriate half of the $512 million in our technology fund and will forward the other half of that towards next year.”
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry M. Lathan told the Alabama Political Reporter that the stat’s newfound fiscal responsibility has all occurred, “Since the GOP takeover.”
In 2010, voters gave the Alabama Republican Party super majorities in both Houses of the Alabama legislature after 135 years of Democratic Party control.
Poole said that there will be no pink slipping of state funded teacher units to deal with the economic slowdown. That did not mean that some teachers, whose units are supported by local government could not still be pink slipped and that the legislature is concerned about that.
Since the Great Recession the budget that has had the most fiscal difficulties has been the non-education state general fund (SGF) budget. The legislature passed a rolling reserve act for the general fund, Senate Bill 129 sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, on Thursday.
The ETF funds education. K-12 education, the state two-year college system, and higher education are all funded in the education budget. State income tax dollars are all earmarked for education. The ETF also collects some sales, use, and ad valorem taxes.
The 2021 ETF is $7,217,422,487, a $91,527,235 increase over the 2020 ETF. This is the largest education budget in state history. This year’s education budget passed on a vote of 76 to 1. It was one of the least controversial education budgets in memory.
The House also passed the state general fund budget and dozens of local bills.
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said, “You have done a lot of work under very difficult circumstances. You have accomplished a lot and deserve to give yourselves a hand.”
The Senate is expected to take up the education budget on Saturday. The Senate has already concurred with the House on the state general fund budget and it has been sent to the governor.