HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Will he or won't he? All eyes are now on Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who is mulling a possible special session of the state legislature over teacher pay raises.
Gov. Bentley (R) paid a visit to the campus of UA-Huntsville Friday morning, just hours after fellow Republican lawmakers rejected his two percent pay raise request for teachers in the final education budget. The governor now faces the choice of either signing a budget that doesn't include the pay hike he pushed hard for, or veto the legislation and call a special session in a final attempt that could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
"We have not made a final decision on what we're going to do, but we will make that decision next week," said Bentley. "I will be thinking about that over the weekend, we'll be studying the budget once it gets to us...We know the money was there and we know it could be done."
Gov. Bentley dismissed reports that he had reached an agreement with House and Senate leaders last week not to push for the raise this year, while also challenging their claims that there wasn't enough money to fund it.
Republican lawmakers in both bodies said they had to use the little extra funding available for next fiscal year to offset costly insurance premium hikes for teachers due to the new federal health care law. Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison) said the payback plan for a rainy day fund lawmakers had previously borrowed from also factored in.
"You gotta pay your debts before you expand your ongoing obligations," said Ball. "At this stage of the game there wasn't an opportunity to insert the two percent raise. This was just an up or down vote, that was the only choice we had. Either kill the budget or pass the budget...I think it's very likely that he [Gov. Bentley] will sign it."
Gov. Bentley has ten days to make up his mind on whether or not to call the special session.
Teachers and other education employees did receive a two percent pay bump last year.