House education budget trades raises for health insurance spending
(Source: Wiki Commons)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
The budget that the House Education Budget Committee will consider later this week includes additional funding for PEEHIP, the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program.
Overall, the House budget includes $48 million for PEEHIP, cash the Alabama Senate had assigned to pay for a 1 percent bonus for all teachers and Post secondary Education employees, among other things.
PEEHIP covers more than 300,000 lives and faces a more than $200 million shortfall.
"That amount would allow the board who makes decisions about increases and costs to the members to minimize the changes that would adversely affect PEEHIP members," said Leura Canary, Chief Legal Counsel for the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the agency that runs PEEHIP.
Without the $48 million, PEEHIP members, who pay base premiums of $15 for individual coverage and $170 for family coverage, faced the prospect of steep increases.
The Senate budget proposal would have left the PEEHIP board with decisions to make regarding how best to deal with $972 in new costs.
"There was no guarantee that those costs would have been shifted to the members," Canary said. "All decisions are made by the PEEHIP board."
House Education Budget Chairman Bill Poole said the legislature has to choose between a raise for teachers or attempting to keep health insurance premiums at a similar level for another year.
"We just don't have the tax receipts to pay for everything we want," said Rep. Poole, R – Tuscaloosa, last week.
Poole released a statement today where he asserts his budget proposal as the most responsible one submitted to date considering the Senate spending plan would have led to an eventual pay cut for teachers because the 1 percent bonus wouldn't have been enough to cover insurance premium hikes.
"A pay raise does no good if the recipient has to pay every dime of it, and perhaps some extra, toward higher insurance premiums if PEEHIP went under funded," Poole said.
Gov. Robert Bentley proclaimed last week that he would veto an education budget that didn't include both a 2 percent pay raise for teachers and Post secondary Education employees, in addition to fully funding PEEHIP.
The Speaker of the House responded to that threat by saying the governor's budget is merely a recommendation and that the legislature is the branch that does the actual appropriating of funds.
The House Ways and Means Education Committee is expected to approve Poole's latest budget proposal Wednesday.
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