Gov. Bentley, AL lawmakers announce $1 billion savings goal - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Gov. Bentley, AL lawmakers announce $1 billion savings goal

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

According to Gov. Robert Bentley and top members of the Alabama Legislature, they have reached their goal of annual combined savings of more than a billion dollars. The sources of savings range from layoffs and attrition in state government to changes to pensions and agency streamlining.

"Some of them are small, some of them are large but they all reflect our commitment to reviewing state spending and increasing efficiency," Gov. Bentley said during Monday's press conference.

Overall, the state is slated to save $1.137 billion, according to the Department of Finance.

The reduction in Alabama's state workforce played a key role in the annual savings. According to figures provided by the governor's office, the state employed 39,577 people in December 2010 whereas as of September 2013, the state only employees 35,068. The decrease of 4,509 workers led to an annual savings of $160.7 million.

The governor said most of the jobs were lost due to attrition, things like resignations and retirements and most of the jobs were never filled. Besides the 469 mental health positions that were eliminated in an effort to increase community programs, it's unclear how many state employees were laid off or fired from their jobs in the name of "right-sizing."

"I don't care how you look at it," Sen. Del Marsh said during the press conference. "You've got 5,000 less state employees in this state and if you want to know where the money is going look at the programs like the reading initiative and Pre-K."

The single biggest savings comes from changes to the state's pension funds. Republicans in the legislature approved an increase in employee contributions for all state employees from 5 percent to 7.5 percent. Changes to pensions are projected to save the state $181.5 million annually.

A second round of pension changes in 2012, the creation of a new plan for all employees hired after Jan. 1, provides lower levels benefits than previous plans that will lead to projected annual savings of $164.1 million.

Democrats are not sold on the governor's math or touting his success in savings.

"Their claims to have "right-sized" government are just another way of saying they have terminated over 10,000 jobs - including more than 2,500 teachers – and cut the pay for our educators, state employees and retirees," Rep. Craig Ford said.

Ford, D – Etowah, added that the governor and the Republicans who run the legislature haven't done anything to improve the conditions of the people in the state who depend on certain services to provided.

"He's doing it at the expense of working families in Alabama by laying off teachers, making classroom sizes bigger and laying off state employees," Ford said.

Some of the savings won't be realized for decades simply because of how they're configured. For instance, the state refinanced millions of dollars worth of bonds. On an annual basis, the state will see savings of approximately $20.4 million, however, over the lifetime of the bonds, the state will see $245 million.

"We've achieved our goal and we've delivered on the promise to the people of Alabama," Gov. Bentley said.

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