Critics: Governor Bentley's restart of merit raises "reeks of po - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Critics: Governor Bentley's restart of merit raises "reeks of political maneuvering" ahead of 2014 primaries

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Some of Alabama's state employees are set to get a pay raise, but Governor Robert Bentley's decision to restart merit raises has some wondering about the timing and at what cost it will be to taxpayers.

Governor Bentley approved the merit raises for state workers, which will start going out at the beginning of 2014. There are questions about the timing and how the state will pay for the increase.

The first new benefit to these state workers in five years comes a year before the gubernatorial primary. Advocates for state employees say the raise is long overdue.

If you look at the governor's statement, I think it's a realization that you got fewer employees and they're doing more and more," explained Mac McArthur, Executive Director of the Alabama State Employees Association. "They have this pay crisis and it is an effort to try to address it."

The Department of Finance estimates the raises will cost between $16 and $18 million.

Democrats say the raises are well deserved but that the governor's move reeks of political maneuvering. In an editorial, House Minority leader Craig Ford wrote: "He is announcing the raises now instead of later because he wants to boost his poll numbers earlier in an attempt to scare off potential challengers in the Republican primary."

The raises would take effect January 1, 2014. 

Teachers are also set to get a slight pay increase for the next fiscal year, but keep in mind that these raises - in many of these workers' minds - will resemble pay reinstatements after lawmakers passed laws requiring both education and state workers to pay more toward their retirements in 2011.

The raises are specifically for merit system employees and the Department of Personnel projects more than 20,000 people will be eligible for the raise.

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