MONTGOMERY, AL. (WSFA) - Governor Bob Riley says he's now forced to increase proration to more than 11 percent as state tax revenues earmarked for education continue to decline.
Proration is the process of cutting appropriations when revenues fall short of projections.
Riley's office says tax collections earmarked for the Education Trust Fund dropped more than 10 percent in the last eight months since proration was initially declared. It was at that time $221 million was pulled from the education Rainy Day Fund to lessen proration's impact to 9 percent.
Just weeks ago the governor tapped the fund for a second time drawing another $100 million, or about half the fund's remaining value.
"No one is pleased that the economic situation requires further reductions in education, but they must be made in order for Alabama to meet its obligation to taxpayers to have a balanced budget," said Governor Riley.
With 11 percent proration and release of the rainy day funds, education spending by the state is $5.7 billion up from the $4.2 billion spent in 2004 but well short of the record high $6.7 billion in 2008.
The governor and several legislators say more proration may be coming in the next year as the recession deepens.
But Riley on Friday urged lawmakers to remember that funding for school initiatives such as the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI), ACCESS Distance Learning and the state's First Class Pre-K program must remain a priority even in difficult budget times.
"We have made great progress in education during the past few years. Our students lead the nation in reading improvement because of the Alabama Reading Initiative. The increase in their scores in math is double the nation's thanks to AMSTI..." the governor explained.
Riley is proposing that legislators look at controlling workers' healthcare and pension costs instead of further cutting school programs. "These costs are spiraling out of control. Their growth is unsustainable, and Dr. Bronner and I have warned them about it before," Governor Riley said.