Riley switches and backs AEA raise
Bob Ingram, Capitol Scene
MONTGOMERY — One of you with a better memory than mine will surely provide me with the answer, but decades ago there was a TV commercial — I think it was for a cigarette brand — in which the man said “I'd rather fight than switch.”
Gov. Bob Riley reversed those words in his State of the State address last week in regard to a teacher pay raise.
Some weeks ago Dr. Paul Hubbert of the Alabama Education Association said his organization would seek a 7 percent pay raise for teachers and support personnel in the regular session. Coming on the heels of back-to-back raises for teachers, there was a little mumbling from the Riley camp that this was a bigger raise than the state could afford. But last week in his address to the Legislature, Gov. Riley made it clear he would rather switch than fight. He joined the AEA in support of a 7 percent raise.
The raise was going to be approved with or without Riley's support, but with his endorsement it will sail through the Legislature like an unopposed local bill.
While he endorsed the healthy pay raise for teachers, Gov. Riley made no mention in his speech about a pay hike for state employees. There is a reason for this: Pay raises for teachers are funded from the Special Education Trust Fund, which overflows with cash; state employees pay comes from the General Fund, which is not in nearly such good shape.
A prediction: The state employees will get a raise but nothing like what the teachers get.
So guess what the first official act of the Legislature was?
Currently, lawmakers get paid $10 a day plus about $30,000 annually in expense money. The resolution passed last week will boost that expense allowance by $1,570 a month, to about $49,000. I am not good at percentages but I think that figures out to a raise of more than 60 percent.
Gov. Riley has vowed to veto the resolution but it is a safe bet that his veto will be overridden.
Now comes a poll by the Capitol Survey Research Center of Montgomery which suggests that Democrats still have a long way to go if they hope their presidential nominee can win Alabama's electoral votes. When asked how they would vote in 2008, some 47 percent of the Alabamians said Republican. Only 41 percent said Democratic.
As to the candidates for the nominations of the two parties, Sen. Hillary Clinton remained the favorite among the Democrat hopefuls while former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani led the field among Republicans.
Clinton was picked by 34.8 percent of the Alabama Democrats, a distant runner-up was Sen. Barack Obama with 19.4 percent. Among the Republicans, Giuliani had a slim lead over Sen. John McCain, 28.4 percent to 27.6 percent.
Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, along with 20 co-sponsors, introduced the bill in the Senate.
Specifically the measure provides that any governor elected to two terms would be eligible for this benefit.
Gov. Hunt, who is seriously ill with cancer, was the first Republican to be elected governor of Alabama (1986) since the Reconstruction and was re-elected in 1990. He was removed from office in 1993 after being convicted of a felony.
The only other living former governor who would qualify for this post is Fob James although it is improbable he would ask for such an appointment.
He is an independently wealthy man.