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Legislators not happy with Riley’s numbers

By Staff
Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
House speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, says a lot of legislators don’t “feel comfortable” with the budget proposals sent to lawmakers last week. He said, “Most of us want to believe” that the governor’s optimistic projections are right, “but we’re not yet convinced.”
The governor’s proposed spending for education in FY ’09 is $6.3 billion, a cut of nearly six percent from this fiscal year. But Joyce Bigbee, the Legislature’s numbers-cruncher estimates that the Education Trust Fund will only have $6.2 billion available to be spent next fiscal year and that would equate to a cut of over eight percent.
The chair of the House Education Budget Committee, Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, says that making the decision later in the year will help the Legislature make the proper decision on the spending issues.
In the General Fund, which provides for the rest of state government, Gov. Riley sent up a spending proposal of $1.9 billion, an increase of 5.7 percent from the current fiscal year.
However Bigbee says that the General Fund will have only $1.6 billion next year, which would be a reduction of nearly 13 percent.
One reason for the much larger gap in the General Fund is that the Riley administration is counting on funds that Bigbee isn’t sure will be available next year.
The House also passed legislation which would ban the transferring of funds between political action committees (PACS). Four other bills dealing with ethical behavior, campaign finance and lobbying were also adopted by the lower chamber and sent to the Senate.
The same five pieces of legislation also passed the House last year. Four of them died in the Senate and one on the desk of Gov. Riley.
The Primary Election
The Presidential Primary was a hit in BamaLand. The Republican contest, with three major contenders, polled about 25,000 more votes than those who voted on the Democratic side.
Even though Barrack Obama polled 56 percent of the Democratic vote, the delegate count this week stands tied at 28 each for Obama and Hillary Clinton. Four of the so-called super delegates are undecided.
On the GOP side, the delegate count stands at 26 for the winner, Mike Huckabee, and 20 for John McCain, with two super delegates undecided.
The earlier primary cost the state about $4 million, but most state officials believe the cost was worth it in voter interest and the advertising revenue (mostly all of it TV) brought in by the candidates.
Siegelman '60 Minutes' report
This is the last time I intend to report on this matter until it actually airs. However, my sources in New York tell me that the Siegelman story is a go, and was never scotched by CBS, contrary to blog rumors.
My sources who have seen it say that it will probably run in about two weeks and described it as one of the strongest pieces of domestic investigative journalism "60 Minutes" has offered in several years.
A personal note to readers
I describe my personal views as follows: a moderate on social issues, an economic conservative and a liberal on free expression. Over the years I have voted for about the same number of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, the first being a Republican, Barry Goldwater, in 1964. A photo me with the candidate hangs proudly on my office wall.
I believe former Gov. Siegelman deserved some prison time for the charges involving the motorcycle for which he was convicted, and he probably deserved more for bond issue deals for which charges were never brought.
The jury, however, acquitted him of most of the Goat Hill development charges, but convicted him of his dealings with Richard Scrushy, which I do not believe was a crime. If it were you would have to go back and indict just about every governor who has served in my lifetime.
But it is important that our justice system be kept “as pure as the driven snow” and the judge and the prosecutors in the Siegelman case failed that test and a light must be shined on their mistakes.
I believe prosecutors are the most powerful public officials in our nation and, because of that, the light of public scrutiny must be focused on them at all times. I know there was significant corruption in our two-year college system and those, such as former Chancellor Roy Johnson, who have admitted to violating the law, should be punished. But that doesn’t mean that Gestapo-type arrests, like that of Rep. Sue Schmitz of Toney, should be defended or the politically-inspired prosecutions of the U. S. attorney in Birmingham should be condoned.
I will be writing more about these issues.

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