Gov. Robert Bentley and lawmakers Friday afternoon said they had reached a compromise on funding teacher insurance in 2015, which could clear the way toward passage of the education budget.
The agreement reached between Bentley and the House and Senate budget chairs would raise the state’s share of individual coverage under the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP) to $780 per eligible per month.
The current level is $714 per month. Both PEEHIP and Bentley wanted the number at $795; a House and Senate conference committee report had set it at $754.
The additional money will be used to help the insurance fund close an estimated $220 million spending gap next year; PEEHIP officials have said that increased co-pays and premiums may be needed to fill in the crevice between revenues and expenses. Several senators Thursday refused to support the conference committee report, citing the lack of pay raises or bonuses in the budget and the possibility of increase insurance costs for teachers and support personnel.
Bentley said in a statement that he appreciated the work of Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee chairman Trip Pittman, R-Daphne and House Ways and Means Education Committee chairman Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa.
“Our teachers, support personnel and retirees work hard and do a great job to prepare our students for success,” the statement said. “Their take-home pay should not be reduced by inadequate funding for the health insurance program.”
Pittman said in a phone interview Friday that the increase will be paid for in part by reducing a debt repayment number from $45 million in the conference committee report to $35 million. Funding for community service grants for legislators and an At-Risk program would also be reduced.
The proposal is expected to appear in a conference committee when the Legislature reconvenes on April 1.
– posted by Brian Lyman