State workers to receive $400 bonus in General Fund - Montgomery Alabama news.

State workers to receive $400 bonus in General Fund

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(Source: Wikimedia Commons) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Alabama Senate approved a $1.8 billion General Fund budget Thursday.

The budget includes a conditional 4 percent raise for all state employees that they would receive if the money is there.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the budget for state workers however is an amendment to that conditional raise that would provide a $400 one-time bonus to all active state employees.

"They have not received a {cost of living adjustment} since 2008," said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur. "You know and here we are six years later and it's long overdue. You know costs go up, the price of insurance, their retirement."

The bonus would not apply to retirees. There is a different bill in the legislature that would provide a one-time 2 percent bonus to Employees Retirement System members.

Democrats proposed a permanent 3 percent raise to be funded out of the governor's discretionary fund but Republicans defeated the amendment saying it couldn't be sustained past the 2015 fiscal year.

Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said, "I think it's a disgrace."

Bedford's plan would have been revenue neutral and would not have required revenue increases to pay for the permanent raise.

The budget also includes additional spending for the state's prison system with $3.5 million specifically earmarked to fund improvements to the Wetumpka Women's Facility.

The Department of Corrections plans on transferring approximately 600 inmates from Tutwiler Women's Prison to the Women's Facility in order to ease overcrowding.

The budget also includes $250,000 for the governor to hire a prison ombudsman who would act as an "inmate advocate" for the women at Tutwiler.

Tutwiler has been the target of a Department of Justice investigation into sexual assault and prisoner abuse.

"I think that program has a lot of merit to give the governor's office the opportunity to improve communications between the inmates and someone who can perhaps relay problems that may arise at Tutwiler," Sen. Orr said of the ombudsman.

The changes in the House budget must be approved by the Alabama House. The legislature will not meet next week and will return on April 1.

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