(WTVM) - Many Alabama state employees are going to get their first raises in five years.
Gov. Robert Bentley says he plans to reinstate merit raises starting in January 2014.
State employees got their last merit raises and cost-of-living raises back in 2008. There have been none since then because the recession affected state tax collections.
The Department of Personnel project more than 20,000 people will be eligible for the raise.
Advocates say it 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. They have this pay crisis and is an effort to try to address it," says Mac McArthur of the Alabama State Employees Association.
The Department of Finance estimates the raises will cost between $16 and $18 million.
Gov. Bentley says the raises can be up to 5% annually for meritorious performance.
Democrats say the raises are well deserved, but that Gov. Bentley's move is a political maneuver ahead of next year's election.