Gov. Robert Bentley signs education, General Fund budgets

Gov. Robert Bentley on February 21, 2013.  (Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

Gov. Robert Bentley on February 21, 2013. (Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

Gov. Robert Bentley quietly signed the state’s two budgets into law Monday, budgets that include a two percent pay raise for teachers but no equivalent increase for state employees.

Besides the raise, the $5.765 billion Education Trust Fund budget includes a relatively small $3.9 million increase for the two-year college system, an extra $1.5 million for Advanced Placement courses, and several conditional repayments of the Rainy Day Account in the Education Trust Fund; the account must be repaid $423 million by 2015.  House Ways and Means chairman Jay Love, R-Montgomery, said the Rolling Reserve Act should result in a payment of about $200 million by the end of the fiscal year in September.

The budget also includes $5 million to offer liability insurance for teachers, insurance they must currently obtain from outside groups, such as the Alabama Education Association.  Democrats criticized the measure as an attempt to undermine the AEA; Republicans said they were offering services to teachers that other state employees enjoy.

State employees, who have not seen a raise of any kind since 2008, will go another year without one under the $1.7 billion budget signed by Bentley Monday morning.  The budget does include an extra $10 million for the State Employees’ Insurance Board, which should alleviate, but not eliminate, an expected increase in state employee insurance rates.

Most state agencies are level-funded in the General Fund, but the Department of Corrections received an increase of $16.7 million over its current $372 million budget.  DOC commissioner Kim Thomas says the money will go toward hiring additional correctional officers and fund improvements at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, based on recommendations from a scathing report released in January on conditions at the prison.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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