Thursday the Senate approved a $8.8 billion education budget including a $2.8 billion supplemental budget.
Sen. Arthur Orr, Finance and Taxation Education Committee Chair, sponsored the legislation and was appreciative of his colleagues for helping with the “unprecedented budget.”
The budgets includes:
- A 2 percent pay increase for teachers
- A $100 dollar tax rebate
- Establishing a savings account called the “Educational Opportunities Reserve Fund” with $500 million to begin.
- $5.9 billion for K-12 learning.
- $2.4 billion to 2- and 4-year college and universities
- $195 million for early childhood education
- $40 million for school safety grants
- $20 million to fund classroom materials teachers need before the start of the fiscal year in October.
Gov. Kay Ivey said she was pleased with the budget the Legislature proposed, although it cut her proposed rebates by 75 percent and removed millions of dollars in funding to other projects.
“Alabama is making record investments that will benefit all Alabamians for many years ahead, and that is something to be proud of,” Ivey said. “This is, in part, because of wise budgeting in recent years, and we are continuing that by paying down debt and increasing our reserves. The Legislature is also advancing proposals to invest in our students and teachers, bolster public safety and improve healthcare in our state. With a record, one-time surplus, I maintain that rebates, rather than more government spending, are a responsible way to provide needed relief to hard-working Alabama families. However, I am pleased that the Legislature has begun to advance their budget proposals, and I look forward to continued work to ensure we collectively produce the best possible budgets for the people who call Alabama home.”
In March, Ivey issued a proposal in her State of the State address to disseminate $400 tax rebates to every tax filer in the state. On Wednesday a Senate committee slashed that to $100 due to Republican lawmakers wanting to remain conservative on spending.
The issue of the tax rebate incited a debate on the Senate floor with several Democrat legislators voicing their opposition to any rebate, despite the drastic reduction. The lawmakers believed it would have been better to invest the money in educational programs or schools, rather than dole out menial sums of money.
Senator Bobby Singleton said he wished the Legislature actually cared enough to invest in “our babies.” Singleton also added how money can just be “thrown out the door” but when it comes to Medicaid expansion, the money is never there.
“We talk about we didn’t have to be able to do Medicaid expansion but we’re ready to throw 275 million out the door,” Singleton said. “We can’t give everybody in this state healthcare because we can’t do Medicaid expansion but we’re ready to throw $275 million out the door.”
“The Legislature is keenly aware that these excess funds are temporary, so it was our job to take conservative measures that were in the best interest of all Alabamians and safeguard itself for years to come,” Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed said. “During this process it has been our mission to invest wisely, cut taxes, return money to taxpayers, and put money back in our coffers and I believe that we delivered a methodical and well-thought-out product.”
The Education Budget now moves to the House of Representatives for deliberation and potential passage.