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Public school, state workers seek 3rd consecutive raise

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Lobbying groups representing state workers and public school employees are going to try for something that is rare in Alabama government — a third consecutive pay raise.

In the legislative session starting March 6, the Alabama Education Association will push for a 7 percent raise for teachers and school support workers from kindergarten through junior college.

The Alabama State Employees Association will also seek a 7 percent hike, Executive Director Mac McArthur said Tuesday.

The raises would take effect with the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Education employees and state workers received a 5 percent cost-of-living raise Oct. 1, 2006, and a 6 percent increase Oct. 1, 2005. There were no raises in the two years prior to that.

Statistics compiled by the Legislative Fiscal Office that go back to 1989 show that state employees got three back-to-back raises in 2001-2003, but school workers never got a triple play during that time period.

McArthur said state employees deserve a third consecutive raise because the size of the state work force has been going down while employees' responsibilities have been going up.

"It shows the people who are providing these services that we appreciate what you are doing," McArthur said.

School construction bond

For education employees, their pay raise legislation will be competing with a school construction bond issue pushed by Gov. Bob Riley, but AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert said the state can afford both.

"Because of better economic growth, the Legislature can still invest more in textbooks, technology and transportation, plus support funding for a bond issue to help with building new schools and new classrooms," Hubbert said in AEA's newsletter.

The chairman of the Senate's education budget committee, Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said Tuesday he had not had an opportunity to discuss the pay raise proposal with the chairman of the House education budget committee, and it's too early to say how the Legislature will view it.

But he agreed with Hubbert that the state tax revenues will be large enough to permit a pay raise and a school bond issue.

Gov. Bob Riley plans to propose a pay raise for teachers, but has not decided how much, his communications director, Jeff Emerson, said Tuesday.

Emerson said Riley "supports a state employee pay raise. The trouble is finding a funding source."

If the Legislature can find one, the governor would look favorably on an increase, Emerson said.

Retiree groups will also be seeking money in the upcoming session of the Legislature.

Janice Charlesworth, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Retirees Association, said the organization will work with AEA to propose a one-time payment equal to $2 per month for their entire period of service.

For example, a person who retired after 30 years of service would get $720.

The one-time payment would be made in December, she said.

Liane Kelly, executive director of the Alabama Retired State Employees' Association, said her board has not yet decided what to seek, but she will recommend it do the same thing as the retired educators.

McArthur, whose group also represents retired state workers, said he believes a benefit tied to years of service is the way to go in the upcoming session.

He said he would like to see $3 per month, but $2 is probably more realistic.

Retired state employees and retired educators got cost-of-living adjustments in the two most recent fiscal years, but their lobbying groups said the state pension fund could not afford a third COLA without affecting its reserve funds.

The lump sum payment could be funded out of existing tax revenue, they said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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