MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley says it's unlikely teachers and state employees will get pay raises in this year's state budgets.
The governor says his staff is studying the issue. He said the money is just not there for a state employees' pay raise, which would have to come out mostly of the cash-strapped General Fund budget.
Bentley said it also looks uncertain whether funds will be available for a pay raise for education employees. That's made particularly difficult because the state must pay back $437 million to a "rainy day" savings account it has borrowed from in recent years.
The executive director of the Alabama State Employees Association, Mac McArthur, said rank-and-file employees have not received a pay increase since 2008 and have not been able to keep up with the steady rise in the cost of living.
McArthur said he had a "real good" meeting with the governor and that he thinks it's still possible a pay raise will be part of Bentley's budget request to the Legislature.
"The governor is sympathetic about state employees not having a pay raise since 2008," McArthur said.
State schools Superintendent Tommy Bice said he supports a raise for teachers if the money is available. He said teachers and other school employees need a cost-of-living raise, and it's been years since they have gotten a boost in pay.
Bice said he wants to push quietly for the raise and not make it a big issue in schools.
"There's no reason for the children to even know it's an issue," Bice said.
The chairman of the House education budget committee, Republican Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery, said he has not received a "hard estimate" on how much tax revenue will be available for the education budget.
"Until we get numbers, it's difficult to propose any kind of spending increase," Love said. "I would love to give raises."
But he said he has to make sure the raise is responsible. He said he hopes to have an estimate from the legislative fiscal office by the start of the 2013 session on Feb. 5.
He said one issue facing the budget is the state stands to lose $75 million to $80 million from the compromise Congress reached concerning the "fiscal cliff" crisis.
Alabama Education Association executive secretary Henry Mabry said teachers and education employees have lost money in recent years through lost benefits and increases in how much they are paying on their pensions.
Mabry said he plans to talk with legislators about the need for a pay raise. He said it will be difficult to deny teachers a pay raise at a time that the economy appears to be improving.
"We're saying, 'How can you continue to cut us now that the economy is improving?'" Mabry said.