State finances in sorry shape

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–The budget hearings, which began last week, have confirmed what has long been known.
The state faces its most serious financial crisis in decades.
The downturn in the economy is the major contributing factor, but some indefensible spending practices during the final year of the Siegelman Adminstration by the Legislature has compounded the problem.
In a desperate move not to have a financial shortfall in the months leading up to the 2002 election, the governor and the legislature appropriated millions of dollars of "one-time only" money to fund continuing programs. That is a fiscal no-no of the worst sort.
Where do they go from here? The best guess is that an effort may be made to impose some temporary taxes to stop the bleeding and then make a serious attempt at some serious tax reforms.
Does tax reform mean tax increases? If you have to ask that question you must have been standing behind the door when they gave out smarts.
When staff members for Gov. Bob Riley took over the Executive Department offices last month they found that dozens of computers had been wiped clean and no work could be done on them.
David Azbell, Riley's press secretary, said it was estimated that it would cost as much as $73,000 to get the computers back into working order.
MikeKanarick, a spokesman for Siegelman, called the accusations "absurd" but Azbell said the names of three employees on the former governor's staff had been turned over to Atty. Gen. Bill Pryor to review.
If in fact this damage was done as claimed by the Riley people the classy thing for Siegelman to do would be to pick up the tab for the repairs to the computers and to assist in the prosecution of those who committed this so-called prank.
If Bedford can deliver as much money to the University as he has hauled off to his Senatorial district, he would be a valuable asset to the institution. In fact, they might even re-name Denny Chimes to Bedford's Bells.
It was reported a few days ago that Bedford, the Democrat from Russellville, was seeking support among his colleagues to have the Senate reject the nomination of Finis St. John of Cullman and substitute his name instead.
Democrats who are still smarting that for the third time in the last four elections a Republican has been elected governor are already working to make sure Riley is a one-term governor.
They have even come up with a nickname for the new governor: "A good-looking Fob."
Former Gov. Fob James was portrayed by his many Democratic critics as a well-meaning but hopelessly naive chief executive.
And speaking of the next governor's race, which seems so far away, street talk has it that Don Siegelman has stolen a page from long ago politician Bibb Graves. He is already campaigning for another run for the office in 2006.
That brings to mind the great line from Bibb Graves, who was overwhelmed by Bill Brandon in the 1922 election by a margin of 163,217 to 44,151.
As he was quoted later, the morning after that debacle he got up and "hit the ground running" for the 1926 election, which he won.
Siegelman's apparent interest in another bid for the office has to dismay House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, who has long had his eyes on the same prize.

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