Democrats in the Alabama Senate are calling the attempt by Republicans to stop the DROP retirement program a punitive attack on teachers and state employees hidden behind the guise of saving money.
Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said that Republicans in the regular session, like they did in the special session on ethics, are bringing up a bill that would hurt teachers and state employees as the first proposal they consider. During the special session, the first bill considered and passed by the new Republican majority stopped politically active associations that represent teachers and state employees from collecting their dues through the state’s automatic payroll deduction system.
The Deferred Retirement Option Program or DROP program allows state and education employees who are 55 years old and have 25 years of service to receive salary and retirement benefits while continuing to work. The program was passed in the hope that it would discourage valuable employees from taking early retirement.
State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said the intent of DROP was to slow teachers leaving Alabama for other states.
Projections from the Legislative Fiscal Office and others put the savings to the state for repealing DROP between $35 million and $70 million.
Republicans believe the “luxury benefit plan” needs to be repealed during these tough financial times.
“DROP is simply an added luxury that public employees enjoy, but the state does not have the resources to continue funding luxuries while cutting the budgets for the necessities. I believe the people of Alabama can understand that logic,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston. “It’s the same logic that they follow when making financial decisions that impact their families – it’s simply common sense budgeting.”
Bedford said the purpose is “not to save money, but to punish them because a disproportionate number of them chose to vote for Gov. Robert Bentley over not-Gov. Bradley Byrne”
The Alabama Education Association supported Bentley, then a two-term state legislator, over Byrne, former chancellor of the state’s junior college system who was supported by some of the state’s most prominent Republicans, in that party primary.
Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, said the bill is an attack on teachers and state employees.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen