Pay raises look very similar to appeasment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

MONTGOMERY &8212; It is as predictable as the sunrise &8212; when an election year rolls around the teacher and state employee unions begin clamoring for a pay raise.

They ain’t dumb.

They know that no legislator who aspires to be re-elected would dare offend these two powerful groups by opposing a raise on the eve of an election.

It matters not the condition of the state treasury, although this year there is an unexpectedly large amount of money in the Education Trust Fund just waiting to be grabbed.

That being so, Dr. Paul Hubbert of the muscular Alabama Education and Mac McArthur of the less muscular State Employees Association joined hands a few days ago asking for pay raises for their union members.

Both groups were given a six percent raise on Oct. 1, the first since 2002.

Hubbert and McArthur say raises for their members have not kept pace with the consumer price index.

Hubbert said the AEA would be looking for an across-the-board five percent raise for teachers. McArthur said his group has not yet determined the amount of the raise they will seek.

These demands for pay raises creates a problem for Gov. Bob Riley who has said if there is indeed a $300 million surplus in education funds he would like to give some of it back to the taxpayers either in the form of a tax cut or a rebate. It could be that Riley is playing a little election-year politics himself.

The chances of a Democrat-controlled Legislature giving a Republican governor the power to give tax money back to the taxpayers is slim and none, and Slim hasn’t been seen for a long time.

A group of Democrat legislators would like to see Alabama play a bigger role in future presidential nominating elections and to achieve that goal they are considering the possibility of scheduling presidential primaries in this state early in the election year.

The plan was given impetus last week when leaders of the national Democratic Party voted to allow earlier primaries in four states. Two would have caucuses, two would have primary elections.

Jim Spearman, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, said that Alabama has a good shot at being picked for one of the primaries.

Presently Alabama does not have its presidential primary until June…months after the widely-covered Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary.

In fact most often the Democratic nomination has already been locked up before this state elects its delegates.

The cost of a primary would be about $1 million but State Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said it would be money well spent.

&8220;We are sitting back being concerned about a million dollars and we’re letting the liberal Northeast establishment choose our candidate,&8221; Barron said.

Bob Ingram has been covering Alabama politics for over 50 years