It was the Governor's lack of specifics about the General Fund budget that has lawmakers wondering how he plans to fill that $300,000,000 hole. After the governor finished talking to legislators in his speech Tuesday night, lawmakers talked with us about their reaction to it.
However, after waiting for weeks to hear what the Governor plans to do about the deficit in the General Fund budget, it looks like lawmakers are going to have to wait a bit longer. They still don't know the Governor's plan for balancing the budget, but they did get a few clues.
When the Governor entered the Old House chamber he had a long list of what he wants to do, but only generalities on how he plans to do it. However, when it came to the Education budget, he was clear about what he wants for a teacher pay increase. "I believe the pay raise should be as much as we can afford but no more. So, my education budget includes a pay raise of four per cent."
The democratic lawmakers, like Sen. Roger Bedford (D-Russellville), who are pushing for a seven per cent pay increase for teachers weren't applauding. "I think it's an insult to the education family in Alabama. That's less than one per cent a year." However, Rep. David Grimes (R-Montgomery) sees it a different way. "Our teachers deserve a pay raise. There's no question about it, but we can't write bad checks to give them pay raises."
On fixing the General Fund budget the Governor would only say, "We have to make sure that all education activities are paid with only education dollars, and we have to make sure general fund dollars stay in the General Fund. My budget does that."
Interpretation - lawmakers think that means the Governor wants to move some General Fund programs to Education - like maybe prisoner education. Rep. Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) likes the idea. "I think that's where it should be. The Governor said tonight make sure education related expenses are handled in the Education fund and general fund activities in the General Fund. Sen. Bedford, however, is opposed to it. "I'm not inclined to take money away from education when we're not spending enough on our children now."
Most of the lawmakers will get the Governor's budgets on Wednesday, but until then lawmakers like Rep John Knight (D-Montgomery) who is chairman of the General Fund budget committee say they're disappointed. "I'm feeling at this point a loss in terms of the numbers on how we will be able to balance the General Fund budget and be able to protect medicaid, senior citizens, children of this state."
The Governor's finance director is planning to explain the specifics in the Governor's budget on Wednesday.