The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


January 15, 2014

Bentley's budgets would increase education funding

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Gov. Robert Bentley proposed budgets Wednesday that would increase funding for public education and Medicaid while requiring most state agencies to get by next year with about the same amount they are receiving this year.

Bentley's state finance director, Bill Newton, outlined the governor's proposals of the second day of the Legislature's election-year session.

"The governor considers them to be conservative. The governor considers them to be adequate," Newton said at a news conference.

Bentley's state General Fund budget for the next fiscal year would spend $1.8 billion on non-education agencies, up from $1.78 billion this year. It includes a $70 million increase for Medicaid — $15 million short of the amount state Health Officer Don Williamson says he will need to maintain services. Newton said cost savings will be necessary in the medical program for the poor and elderly.

Legislative leaders had been expecting to cut General Fund spending because of an anticipated decline in tax revenue. But state Sen. Arthur Orr, a Republican and chairman of the Senate's General Fund budget committee, said Bentley dipped into various funds with surpluses to make up the difference.

"The governor has found accessible funds to help the General Fund considerably," he said.

Orr said he's concerned about the stagnant prison system budget. State Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas had been seeking extra money to hire 100 more security guards, increase their salaries to reduce turnover and improve security at Alabama's prisons, which operate at nearly twice their designed capacity.

Bentley's budget plan includes a cost-of-living raise of up to 4 percent for employees of state agencies, but it is conditioned on the state taking in more revenue than expected. Bentley would make the call on whether to spend any extra money on raises. Republican legislative leaders said extra revenue is doubtful.

Bentley's proposed education budget is nearly $6 billion. That's up from $5.8 billion in appropriations this year. K-12 schools would get a 4 percent increase, two-year schools 3 percent more and universities 1 percent more.

Bentley's budget plan is based on giving K-12 and community college employees a 2 percent cost-of-living raise. Republican Trip Pittman of Daphne, chairman of the Sent education budget committee, said he's still evaluating whether that $73 million expenditure can be made.

The governor's budget also includes a $10 million expansion of the state's voluntary pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds. That could add about 1,900 students.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said expanding the pre-kindergarten program has broad legislative support.

Text Only


Which foreign crisis is the biggest threat to the security of the United States?

None of the above
     View Results
AP Video
Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee