Special session doesn’t solve lingering funding problem

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Apparently Gov. Ronnie Musgrove never took ninth-grade physics – or at least he’s forgotten Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there’s an equal and opposition reaction.

Or more simply: Given a limited state budget, choose to spend more money in one area and the other areas will suffer.

Desperate for a political victory, Musgrove was determined to give state teachers a pay raise&160;- regardless of where the money will be found.

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The governor demanded the Legislature meet in special session on Monday to consider removing a requirement that teacher pay raises only be given if the state’s budget grows by 5 percent.

With the likelihood of a 5 percent growth next to impossible this year, Musgrove twisted the arms of legislators into making the teacher pay deal become a reality.

And most lawmakers responded as the bill passed 112-3 in the House and 45-3 in the Senate.

Let’s get one thing straight: teachers need – and deserve – pay raises.

However, the governor and the Legislature do a disservice to taxpayers by passing legislation without solving the biggest dilemma – how to locate $310 million needed to fund the raises.

Barring a sudden turnaround in our state’s economy, one of the two things must happen to fund the teacher pay raises. Either lawmakers will be forced to make deeper cuts in an already trimmed state budget or lawmakers must vote to increase taxes.

Either way, we wish lawmakers had spent a little more than the one hour and 20 minutes they collectively spent debating the issue Monday and actually solve the funding question.

Musgrove won the battle of wills Monday, but the funding war will be fought another day.