Democrats urge Bentley to save DROP

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Democratic Party leaders in the Alabama senate are urging Gov. Robert Bentley to make changes to a bill passed by the Legislature to eliminate a deferred retirement program.

That program, known as DROP, has rewarded older state employees and teachers who stay on the job.

Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature had argued the program was too expensive and that top beneficiaries were lobbyists, coaches and high-ranking state officials. The original purpose was to encourage teachers to delay retirement and stay in the classroom rather than continuing their careers in another state. 

Senate Democratic leaders urged Bentley in a statement Wednesday to add an executive amendment continuing the program, but making it less expensive.

"With the repeal of DROP, we are going to suffer the loss of some of our key teachers, and the rise that Alabama experienced from 49th to 26th in education quality is now at risk." said Senator Hank Sanders (D-Selma).  "We urge the Governor to issue an Executive Amendment providing for a revenue-neutral solution that will protect education and not cost the state anything."

"If it is a budget matter," said Senator Roger Bedford (D-Russelville), "then DROP can be made revenue neutral, so it does not cost anything and you still have the program and can protect the education of our children.  But Republicans were not even willing to consider a solution that is revenue neutral.  This was a purely political decision that will hurt the education of children, and we urge the Governor to right this wrong."

Bentley's communications director, Rebekah Mason, said the governor will sign the bill.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.