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State tax figures show fresh growth

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY-The timing couldn't have been better. Only a day or so before Gov. Bob Riley issued the call for a special session of the Legislature to pass a General Fund budget the State Revenue Department released some remarkably encouraging figures on state tax collections.
Revenue is pouring into the state in an unexpected and almost unprecedented rate. It may be premature to say so, but it would seem the recession which had gripped the state economy has ended.
The Education Trust Fund was the big beneficiary in this upsurge, primarily because the two biggest tax producers…income and sales… are earmarked for schools. The Trust Fund collected $190 million more during the first nine months of the fiscal year than state officials had predicted. That is a whopping 10.9 percent increase over the same period a year ago.
Taxes which go into the General Fund were up a stunning 21.8 percent for the same period. This is especially good news for the lawmakers who will return to Montgomery on July 19 to try to agree on a General Fund budget…something they could not do during the long regular session.
Certainly with this bigger-than-expected growth in General Fund money it will be easier to come up with a workable budget.
Gov. Riley, in issuing the special session call, urged the lawmakers to "get in, get it done and get out" as soon as possible. He recalled the legislature passed some major legislation in a five-day special session last fall and he challenged the lawmakers to do the same thing again. Five legislative days is the minimum time required by the Constitution to pass any legislation.
However this goal of an abbreviated session may not be achieved if other controversial bills are introduced in the session, and there are indications this may well happen.
Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, has hinted he may try to get the legislature to make another attempt at enacting a law which would require non-profit organizations such as the Alabama Christian Coalition to disclose donors for their election-year campaigning.
Recent disclosures that the ACC received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Indian gambling groups to fight gambling in Alabama has renewed interest in this legislation. Coalition spokesmen insist they did not know the money had come from the Indians.
Sen. Barron himself could become an issue in the special session. An abortive attempt was made in the Senate during the recent regular session to oust him as president pro tem and another attempted coup could come in the special session, although it seems unlikely.
He loves being governor and the idea that he might not run for a second term, to me at least, is ridiculous.
And if he announces next week or the next that he will not run for a second term I will eat the paper on which this column is printed.
As to Roy Moore, I am far less sure. My gut feeling is that Moore would have a far better chance being elected to another term as chief justice than being elected governor. As I have said before, Moore has gotten more mileage out of the Ten Commandments than Moses ever did, but I am not sure he can parlay that into the governor's office.
Jim Bennett, long time legislator and State Treasurer for 10 years, said he was giving serious consideration to running for the PSC post. Bennett is presently serving in the Riley Cabinet as State Labor Commissioner. Also expressing his strong interest in the PSC seat was former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. of Montgomery. Hooper had earlier indicated he might run for the office of lieutenant governor but he says he now has his sights on the seat being vacated by Wallace. Hooper served almost two decades in the State House before being defeated in 2002. He is the son of former Chief Justice Perry Hooper Sr.
Both Wallace and Hooper would run as Republicans.