The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Opinion

April 13, 2014

A lack of leadership or usual politics?

— Gov. Robert Bentley signed the $5.9 billion education budget Friday afternoon even though it was missing the 2 percent pay raise he wanted for public school employees.

What makes this interesting is that his own party leadership thwarted his plans for the raise.

The governor, a Republican, is the leader of the state’s Republican Party as President Obama is the head of the national Democratic Party and former President Bush was the head of the national Republican Party.

But Bentley was not able to sway fellow Republicans to vote for the pay raise which he pushed in his State of the State Address.

The Republican-led Legislature said there wasn’t enough money to pay for a pay raise and provide more money for teachers’ health insurance.

A showdown of sorts took place on the last night of the legislative session when the governor asked the legislators to approve the education budget and other spending bills early enough for him to attach executive amendments — including the 2 percent pay raise.

Usually, the Legislature stays in session until midnight on the final day but this time the lawmakers passed the budget with increased money for the teachers’ health insurance and then got out of town.

Among the bills left on the table were a payday loan bill and a revision of the state’s open meetings law — both of which the governor had strongly pushed.

Now, the governor, after expressing his disappointment with the Legislature, has ruled out a special session “at this time.” But he suggested he may call a special session in the fall for the pay raise. Bentley said he would keep a “close watch on revenues” and ask for the legislators to pass the pay raise “if the revenues are there.”

Is this politics as usual? 

We don’t mean to seem cynical but the timing is suspect. A special session would be just a couple months before the general election and the legislators could proclaim they were able to come up with the money thereby landing in the good voting graces of the teachers’ voting bloc.

We hope that’s not the case.

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