Bentley proposes cuts up to 45%

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gov. Robert Bentley last night said he will effectively decrease the benefits of teachers and state employees and will make huge cuts to non-essential state agencies.

Bentley said he has no choice “but to make hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts,” but promised this is the last year of proration in Ala-bama. He made the promise just a day after declaring 3 percent proration in the current education budget and announcing his intention to declare 15 percent proration in the General Fund budget.

“No budget in my administration will ever have to be prorated,” he said.

Bentley said the state will ask teachers and state employees to contribute more to their health care and retirement benefits, as most Alabamians already are doing.

He said he also will repeal the DROP program, which allows educators to continue to work and to begin drawing retirement funds, which are held in an account until their actual retirements.

But he promised not to cut funding for teaching units, not to increase class sizes, and not to cut the school year. He will set aside $5 million for classroom supplies and will maintain the Alabama Reading Initiative, AMSTI, the ACCESS distance learning program and increase the number of advanced placement teachers in high schools.

Turning to the General Fund budget, Bentley said he voted against the 2011 budget as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives because he knew it was a bad budget.

“We have exhausted the Rainy Day Fund and I will be forced to declare 15 percent proration,” he said.

Asking employees to contribute more to retirement and heath care will mean $100 million in savings to the state over the next three years, he said.

He said his budget will protect Medicaid, the Department of Corrections, the Alabama National Guard, the Ethics Commission and the state auditor.

“But there are hard decisions that must be made to balance the budget,” he said. “Other agencies will have deep cuts. Every agency will be cut 15 percent to 45 percent and some will no longer receive General Fund appropriations.

He said he is removing 217 line items, including 185 earmarks and 32 entities such as commissions and boards.

“Many are worthwhile, but some are not,” he said. “Historic sites, tourist sites and halls of fame are important, but not as important as health care for children and the elderly.”