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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2005
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Senate committee votes to give state employees 4% cost-of-living raise

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — State employees who had no hope of a pay increase when the Legislature convened three weeks ago are now hearing some legislators talk about a guaranteed 4 percent raise.

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee voted 10-0 Wednesday for two similar bills that would mandate 4 percent cost-of-living raises for active and retired state employees, beginning Oct. 1.

Senators who voted for the legislation said funding the raise will be tough, particularly with the state General Fund budget facing a shortfall. But if education employees are going to get a raise — and it appears they will — then state employees also deserve one, they said.

The pay raise would have to be approved by the Senate and House and signed by the governor before taking effect.

"I'm going to be optimistic," said Mac McArthur, executive director of the Alabama State Employees Association.

Republican Gov. Bob Riley's state finance director, Jim Main, said there is no money to fund a mandatory pay raise, and some state employees might be laid off so others could get raises.

"That's inherently unfair," Main said.

Rep. John Knight, chairman of the House Government Finance and Appropriations Committee, downplayed talk of a pay raise by saying he's still trying to figure out how to fully fund the health insurance and retirement costs for state employees.

Legislative fiscal experts say the pay raise would cost $57 million, with $19.7 million of that amount coming from the state's $1.5 billion General Fund budget.

The remainder would come from other sources, such as federal funds sent to state agencies.

State employees got their last cost-of-living raise in October 2002, and most haven't received any merit raises for outstanding performance in two years because of state budget shortages.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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