Siegelman tests political waters
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–Former Gov. Don Siegelman is going to wet his finger, hold it up in the air, and see which way the wind is blowing. The political wind, that is.
Siegelman has announced he will hold a series of what he calls "Listening Post" meetings throughout Alabama, the first one scheduled in Huntsville this week.
Siegelman said the purpose of these meetings was to get a reading on "what the people think of the state of the state."
The scheduled meetings came as no surprise to many in the political arena.
Joe Reed, the vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, expressed no doubt that Siegelman's name would be on the ballot for governor in 2006.
"He's going to run again if he's breathing," Reed said.
One fly in the ointment as Siegelman appears gearing up for another run for governor is the fact that a Federal Grand Jury is still in session in Montgomery looking at charges of alleged wrongdoing in his administration.
Charges brought against him by a grand jury in Birmingham some months ago were dropped.
State and federal Medicaid officials have resolved a long-running dispute over the matching formula the state uses in receiving federal funds and the end result of this settlement is that the federal government had withdrawn its demand that the state refund a staggering, budget-busting $1.4 billion to the federal agency.
To be forced to repay that amount of money would have created a financial disaster for the General Fund, which is already in desperate straits.
State Medicaid Commissioner Carol Herrman, who played a leading role in settling this matter, expressed relief at the settlement.
"Now we are going to be back on a sure footing" with the federal agency, she said.
From the very beginning of the Medicaid program Alabama was a leader in attracting federal money to the program. Using what some called a loop hole in the law, they were able to attract far more federal dollars than other states.
While state officials have insisted nothing illegal was done there were some who felt the state was indeed violating the spirit of the law in its quest for matching dollars.
"Every teacher deserves compensation, whether a first grade teacher or a faculty member in a university microbiology lab."
Stone estimated the cost of a 7 percent raise for college-university faculty members would be about $90 million.
And you can be sure that in a few days the Alabama State Employees Association will make a similar demand even though their salaries come from the General Fund which is in dire financial condition.
An investigation of that event was released a few days ago, and it brought to my mind a wonderful quote by Adlai Stevenson, a two-time unsuccessful candidate for President in 1952 and 1956. Said Stevenson:
"Journalists do not live by words alone…but sometimes they have to eat them."
There has been a lot of word-eating by CBS folks.